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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Thom Pain (based on nothing). This play, as its subtitle suggests, is a one-man Beckettlike riff about "nothing," written by the incomparable Will Eno. The script was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and this production, directed by Marissa Wolf, is solidly one of the best pieces of theater I've ever witnessed. So much so, it leaves me speechless. That said, let me first riff some honest, yet terribly clichéd, adjectives: mind-blowing, confronting, difficult, heady, hilarious. If this sounds like hyperbole, let me then quote from Charles Isherwood's review of the Off-Broadway production from The New York Times: "astonishing ... audacious ... grabs us by the throat ... a small masterpiece." So really, what is this show about nothing really about? A young man (the thrilling Jonathan Bock) stands alone on a blank stage. He delivers, in a measured and controlled Rod Serling–esque tone, a stream-of-consciousness monologue about the horror and beauty of being alive. It's menacingly funny. Bock makes serious eye contact with the audience, breaking down the fourth wall and asking questions. Don't worry, you don't have to answer — they're rhetorical, aren't they? The guy seated to my right captured it best: "This show has all the emotion in that moment before a first kiss ... or a fist fight." It's brilliant. Through April 19 at the Cutting Ball Theater at the Exit, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), S.F. $15-$30; 800-838-3006 or www.cuttingball.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed March 25.

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

American Hwangap: Lloyd Suh's drama about a Korean immigrant reuniting with his family. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 3. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.

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

Baptized to the Bone: A comedy by Dave Johnson about a theater producer scrambling for money. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 3. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Chains of Dew: Susan Glaspell's play about a poet in the '20s, produced by San Francisco Free Civic Theatre. April 9-11, free. Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood (at 18th St.), 831-6810.

Confessions of a Refrigerator Mother: Carolyn Doyle's play about a day in the life of her autistic son. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Divafest: Very large women-centered theater festival. Through April 25, $10-$20. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-1094, www.theexit.org.

Eccentrics of San Francisco's Barbary Coast ... A Magical Escapade: Historical magic show with Walt Anthony, David Miller, Brian Scott, and Ruth Fraser. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 27, $30, www.sanfranciscomagicparlor.com. Chancellor Hotel, 433 Powell (at Post), 362-2004, www.chancellorhotel.com.

E.O. 9066: Lunatique Fantastique's puppetry. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through April 25, $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Evil Hamlet: Written by William Shakespeare, edited by Jim Strope. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.org.

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

An Inspector Calls: A police inspector pays a visit to a party in 1912 in J.B. Priestley's drama, produced by San Francisco StageWorks. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

License to Kiss: Sabine Hettlich stars in the espionage thriller, with a side of dinner. Wednesdays-Sundays, $116-$190, 438-2668. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero & Battery), www.zinzanni.org.

Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland returns for another go-around. Through May 2. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Point Break Live!: Bank-robbing surfers make audiences happy. Fridays, 9 p.m., $25, www.myspace.com/pointbreaklive. CELLspace, 2050 Bryant (at 18th St.), 648-7562, www.cellspace.org.

Pride Open: Charles E. Polly's play explores sexual identity. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 11. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org/.

The Shape of Things: Neil LaBute retells the story of Adam and Eve. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 24. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Daily, $23-$29, www.shoppingthemusical.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

Slumber Party: All-female sketch comedy with the Boner Patrol: Beata Bakhtiari, Emily Heller, Nicole Calasich, Susannah Freedman, Kelli Karsten, and Emily Sims. Fridays, Saturdays, 10 p.m. Continues through April 11, $7-$10. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com.

The Story: A reporter fabricates a story, by Tracey Scott Wilson. Through April 25. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

Thom Pain (based on nothing): Cutting Ball Theater produces Will Eno's one-man show. Through April 19, www.cuttingball.com. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 931-1094, www.sffringe.org.

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding: Be a part of the wedding reception at Tony 'n Tina's Wedding. Thursdays-Saturdays, www.pier39shows.com. Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero), 433-3939, www.theatre39-sf.com.

War Music: A drama by Lillian Groag about Agamemnon and Achilles. Through April 26. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

Wicked: The Tony Award–winning musical. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 27. Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 551-2000.

 
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