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Our critics weigh in on local theater

The Model Apartment. Comedy may be tragedy plus time, but sometimes a tragedy is so immense that it can only devolve into savage farce. Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment, currently playing at Traveling Jewish Theatre, considers the limits of comedy by focusing on a pair of Holocaust survivors in their golden years. Lola (Naomi Newman) and Max (Jarion Monroe) are retirees making the twilight move from Brooklyn to Florida. But their new condo isn't ready, so they relocate temporarily to a model apartment in which everything is a shining, useless surface — the cigarette tray is glued to the coffee table, and the refrigerator is an unplugged prop. As they settle down to sleep, they're confronted by their Nazi-obsessed daughter, Debbie, played here in an aggressively comic and frankly stunning performance by Amy Resnick. For the rest of the night, Lola and Max find themselves dwelling on past horrors, all the while surrounded by the more banal horrors of the present. This production, smartly directed by Amy Glazer, works best whenever Debbie is onstage to dredge up her mother's unreliable memories from the concentration camp — long-buried traumas that emerge amid the oppressive Miami pastels of Lisa Clark's pitch-perfect set. The result is a disorienting, inconclusive fever dream designed to mock the notion that time heals all wounds. Through April 5 at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at 17th St.), S.F. $15-$34; 292-1233 or www.atjt.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed March 11.

Where the Sidewalk Ends.The beauty and wonder of this amalgamated adaptation of several classic Shel Silverstein books grab you from the moment the curtain is stripped away. Director and designer Nick Olivero and writer Sarah Savage have created an enchanting world that neatly captures the playfulness of Silverstein's best-loved poems and stories, where the color and warmth of Amy Knight's costumes and Christian Foster Howes' music burst forth from a black-and-white backdrop. Michelle Ianiro is particularly captivating as the nurturing Tree, looking out for the young Shel as he struggles with his mom and falls for the neighborhood girl. His journey from 7-year-old boy to elderly man loses steam in the second half, as Shel ventures off to find his own missing piece. The stage is stripped bare for his big emotional discovery about whom he wants to become as a man and husband, yet the actors don't quite have the chops, nor Savage the nuanced insights, to carry this off. But even if Boxcar Theatre has yet to uncover the "adult" heart of the story, the production is so good at bringing to life the childlike charm, silliness, and joy of Silverstein's books that it's still a pleasure to join in the fun. Through March 27 at Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), S.F. $16-$32; 776-1747 or www.boxcartheare.org. (Molly Rhodes) Reviewed March 11.

Act a Lady: Gender bending in a small, Prohibition-era town. Starting March 20, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Apocalypse Puppet Theatre, Roadkill, McPuzo, & Trotsky: Sun., March 22, 9 p.m., $7-$10. Amnesia, 853 Valencia (at 20th St.), 970-0012, www.amnesiathebar.com.

"Audacious Artefacts: Parisian Grand Guignol": March 19-May 2, $15-$30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Now with Rod Blagojevich! Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 5 p.m., $25-$80, www.beachblanketbabylon.com. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

E.O. 9066: Lunatique Fantastique's puppetry. Saturdays. Continues through April 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Grease: With American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. Starting March 24, Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 19. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), 551-2000.

High Spirits: A musical based on Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Starting March 19, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 5. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469, www.eurekatheatre.org.

The Jade Pyramid: Bob Scott's play about himself and the '60s. Wed., March 18, 7:30 p.m., $10-$15. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Lead: Lesbians rule the world in this Crazed Ape production. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through March 28. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Machinal: Sophie Treadwell's play about murderer Ruth Snyder. Through March 22. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

Nigerian Spam Scam Scan: Dean Cameron's comedy about the e-mail scam. Thu., March 19. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org.

No Exit: Jean-Paul Sartre's drama, directed by Andrey Esterlis. Through March 21, www.expressionproductions.com. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978, www.theatreofyugen.org.

Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland returns for another go-around. Through March 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Pure Shock Value: Killing My Lobster riffs on the film industry. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through March 22, $10-$25, www.killingmylobster.com. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-1094, www.sffringe.org.

Rabbi Sam: Charlie Varon's drama about a rabbi who reinvents Judaism. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 5. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

SF Follies: Name that reference in John Bisceglie's tale of the city. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 5, $35-$40, www.sffollies.com. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org.

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