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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Audacious Artefacts: Parisian Grand Guignol. As with just about any collection of short theater pieces, Thrillpeddlers' new sex-and-violence extravaganza is very much hit-and-miss — but at least this evening of one-acts gets much, much better as it goes along. Audacious Artefacts is a tribute to the Théâtre du Grand Guignol, the Parisian venue that specialized in deliriously lowbrow, exploitative shock fare from 1897 to 1962. In keeping with the Grand Guignol tradition, Thrillpeddlers presents four short plays — two horror tales and two sex farces — yoked together so that audiences find themselves torn between titillation and dread. Or, at least, that's the idea; in practice, the sex farces are more successful than the horror pieces. Best of all is the finale, a simple little romp called "The Discipline," which technically pre-dates Grand Guignol (it was written in 1788) and plays like a vignette out of a Laurence Sterne novel. It features two nuns lusting after the convent gardener, who ends up shtupping both of them in an outrageous shadow-puppet sex show. The piece climaxes, so to speak, with an ingenious, disorienting, lights-out phantasmagoric sequence featuring a giant floating penis that shoots glow-in-the-dark streamers toward a giant floating vagina. Hey, nobody ever went to the Grand Guignol for subtlety. Through May 16 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. $15-$69; 377-4202 or www.thrillpeddlers.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed April 29.

Audacious Artefacts: Parisian Grand Guignol: Original Grand Guignol. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 16, $15-$30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

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BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 7 p.m., $5-$8, www.improv.org. Bayfront Theater, 16 Marina (at Laguna), 474-6776, www.improv.org/shows/bayfront.htm.

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.

Best of PlayGround 13: A Festival of Writers and New Plays: The best of the bunch. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 31, www.playground-sf.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081, www.thickhouse.org.

Big City Improv: Actors take audience suggestions and create comedy from nothing. Fridays, 10 p.m., $15-$20, www.bigcityimprov.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

Boleros for the Disenchanted: Jose Rivera's drama about love and scoundrels. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 31. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

Bright Young People: The Words and Music of Noel Coward: ACT's Young Conservatory takes the stage for songs and scenes by Coward. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 23. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320, www.zeum.org/visitor/zeumTheater.html.

"Cabaret to Fight AIDS": Mon., May 18, 8 p.m., $50. The Rrazz Room, at the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason (at Ellis), 866-468-3399, www.therrazzroom.com.

Ciribiribin: Marsh Youth Theater's musical about an Italian family in the 1940s. Through May 16. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Dead Man's Cell Phone: Sarah Ruhl's comedy about technology. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 13. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

East 14th Street: Don Reed's solo show about growing up in Oakland. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through June 14. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.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.

The Floating Light Bulb: Woody Allen's story about a Jewish family in Brooklyn. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 24. Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 292-1233, www.atjt.com.

For All the Babies' Fathers: Molly Rhodes' drama about fathers and exes. Through May 16. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune: A romance by Terrence McNally. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 24. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-3847, www.theexit.org.

Fukú Americanus: May 16-June 21, 8 p.m., $15-$25. Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-3311, www.theintersection.org.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake and Other Storybooks: Mini-musicals based on children's storybooks. Wed., May 13, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org.

Ion: Outdoor performances of Euripides' comedy by Boxcar Theatre. Saturdays. Continues through May 23, Free. Multiple San Francisco locations.

Kamikaze Heart: Tim Barsky's circus/hip-hop extravaganza. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 31, $14-$25, www.citycircus.org. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

Monday Night Marsh: On select Mondays a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage at this regular event that's hosted local celebs like Josh Kornbluth and Marga Gomez in the past; see www.themarsh.org for a lineup of future shows. Mondays, $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Mr. Marmalade: Noah Haidle's comedy about a young girl, produced by Custom Made Theatre Co. Starting May 15, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 13. The Custom Stage, 965 Mission (at Sixth St.), 626-2060, www.custommade.org.

Not A Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland's long-running drama about San Leandro. May 16-June 14. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com.

Point Break Live!: Bank-robbing surfers make audiences happy. Fridays, 9 p.m. Continues through May 30, $25, www.myspace.com/pointbreaklive. CELLspace, 2050 Bryant (at 18th St.), 648-7562, www.cellspace.org.

ShadowLight Productions: Wayang Kulit: Sat., May 16, 8 p.m., free, all ages, www.shadowlight.org. Yerba Buena Gardens, Fourth St. & Mission, 284-9589, www.yerbabuenagardens.com.

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.

"ShortLived 2.0": Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 27, $15-$20, www.pianofight.com. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com.

Strings: Terrence Beswick's play about brothers, produced by Guerrilla Rep. Starting May 14, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 6. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410, www.voicefactorysf.org.

Sultry Summer Magic: Teatro ZinZanni's new show features a rotating crew of headliners during the run, including Melanie Stace, Edna Wright and Honey Cone, Melba Moore, Sally Kellerman, and Darlene Love. Wednesdays-Sundays, $117-$200, 438-2668. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero & Battery), www.zinzanni.org.

Super Awesome Rap Team: Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through May 16, $10-$20. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.org.

Three on a Party: Word for Word's production of works by Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein, and Armistead Maupin. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 7. Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079, www.therhino.org.

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

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

Wildcat: A musical about an oil prospector in 1912. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 24. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469, www.eurekatheatre.org.

Wreckage: Caridad Svich's drama about two boys in love. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 6. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

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