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Our critics weigh in on local theater

All You Can Eat. Playwright and director Steve Morgan Haskell's new play is one of those dramas that's at once easy and difficult to decipher. The overall message of the play — which takes place backstage at the ballroom of the French Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, just before an American rock band's reunion concert — can pretty much be summarized in a single quote spoken by the band's frontman, Alexander: "What do I find wrong with America? Everything." On the other hand, in an attempt to illustrate this pessimistic, hardly revolutionary opinion, Haskell slaps together a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of congealed ideas via a confusing, yo-yoing timeframe. Some of the most discernable positions the play superficially proffers in this heavy yet unfilling theatrical stew include thoughts about the role of rock stars as modern messiahs, the persistent fascination of the culture with the lowbrow, this country's obsession with maintaining a germ-free environment, and the U.S. role in the Iraq war. In the end, All You Can Eat is difficult to digest. Through Oct. 11 at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at 17th St.), S.F. Tickets are $12-$30; call 626-0453 or visit Veltman) Reviewed Oct. 1.

Yellowjackets. Set in 1994 at the dramatist's alma mater, Berkeley High, Itamar Moses' world premiere at Berkeley Rep explores how a bunch of teenagers attempt to cope with a rash of unsettling upheavals that threaten to rupture school life. When a fight breaks out between rival gangs, Berkeley High's leaders decide to instigate a closed-campus policy. Random, unprovoked altercations escalate across campus; the school newspaper comes under fire for running a racially incendiary article; disagreements over plans to abolish the school's tracking program on socioeconomic grounds further hamper students' ability to concentrate on their schoolwork. Over the course of two and a half hours, we get to know and empathize with a cast of contrasting characters. Through Oct. 12 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $13.50-$71; call 510-647-2949 or visit (C.V.) Reviewed Sept. 17.

Arroz Con Pollo: A staged reading of a play by Edward Hernandez, produced by the Playwrights' Center of San Francisco. Thu., Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m. Z Space Studio, 131 10th St. (at Mission), 626-0453.

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Beyond the Mirror: A production in conjunction with the Exile Theater of Afghanistan telling the story of three decades of war and occupation. Starring Anisa Wahab, one of the few women to be accepted as an actress in Afghan culture. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Oct. 12. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 647-2822.

Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights: Gertrude Stein's musical based on the story of Faust. Oct. 10-19. Diego Rivera Theater/CCSF, 50 Phelan (at Judson), 239-3100.

Family Baggage: A series of tragicomic vignettes by Errol Strider and Lou Montgomery exploring dysfunctional families. Through Oct. 18. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

Galileo: Bertolt Brecht's play about the later life of Galileo Galilei. Through Oct. 26. The Garage, 975 Howard (at Sixth St.), 289-2000.

Good Breeding: In Robert O'Hara's erotic and feminist new adaptation of the Greek Oresteia, the House of Atreus becomes a New York club resembling Studio 54. Starting Oct. 9. Through Oct. 25. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

The History Boys: A drama by Alan Bennett about eight English schoolboys vying for admittance to prestigious universities. Through Oct. 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

HyperREAL: A hybrid theater, dance, and multimedia piece by by Sara Kraft. Oct. 10-12. $10-$15. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060.

I'm Yours! Or, Deranged by Love: Precarious Theatre presents a story of star-crossed lovers that mixes Don Quixote with rock 'n' roll. Through Oct. 25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Irma La Douce: 42nd Street Moon presents the 1960 Parisian musical comedy, with music by Marguerite Monnot and original book and lyrics by Alexandre Breffort. Thursdays-Sundays. Through Oct. 12. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

The K of D, an Urban Legend: Charlotte is a small-town Midwestern girl with a chilling ability: she can give the "K of D," or "kiss of death." Through Oct. 19. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina and Buchanan), 441-8822.

Machinal: A drama by Sophie Treadwell in which mounting pressure stresses a mechanized society. Oct. 9-19. SFSU Campus/Little Theater, 1600 Holloway (at 19th Ave.) (Creative Arts Bldg.), 338-2467.

May Day Parade: Bugles, Bass Drums, and the Baptist Church: A one-man comedy by Wayne Harris in which he portrays a Baptist preacher, a four-man drum ensemble, and all 100 members of the Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church Drum and Bugle Corps. Through Nov. 9. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

The Monk: Based on a 1795 novel by Matthew Lewis, this is a gothic tale of a 17th-century Spanish friar led into dissolution by an impoverished nun and a dissolute aristocrat. But no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Staged by No Nude Men Productions. Oct. 10.-Nov. 22. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor ), 673-3847.

My Name Is Vera Cupido: A poetic search for love beyond death, this drama by by Stephanie Fleischmann follows Vera Cupido as she mourns her "Big Love." Through Nov. 2. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck's drama about California migrant field workers during the Great Depression, directed by Keith Phillips and Phaedra Starr. Through Nov. 29. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.

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