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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo. It seems silly to judge an entire play based on one face slap. But when Ann (René Augesen) strikes her insensitive husband, Peter (Anthony Fusco), in a pivotal scene in Edward Albee's marital melodrama, its tepidness speaks volumes about the lack of edginess in A.C.T.'s latest production. What should be a slap of passion — he has just dismissed his wife's needs after she reveals her deepest desires — instead comes across as a playful admonishment. While the cast and director do a fine job of setting up a world where the threat of violence hums underneath a refined upper-middle-class surface, the violence has a staged, distant quality when it finally boils over. Albee still knows how to turn a phrase and use few words to get right at what most terrifies comfortably affluent couples. But the production doesn't dig deep enough beneath the words to truly shake us and disturb us as it should. Through July 5 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. $14-$82; 749-2228 or www.act-sf.org.(Molly Rhodes) Reviewed June 24.

Actors Reading Writers: Popular local actors read modern and classic short stories. First Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m., free. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-848-7800, www.berkeleycityclub.com.

At Home at the Zoo: Edward Albee's drama, directed by Rebecca Taichman. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through July 5. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

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.

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.

East 14th Street: Don Reed's solo show about growing up in Oakland. Through July 18. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Emperor Norton the Musical: Melody! Comedy! Insanity! Third Child Productions revives its light-hearted look at the most famous kook in San Francisco history. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 5, $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com.

Fayette-Nam: Starting July 3, Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 11, $15-$25, www.asianamericantheater.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081, www.thickhouse.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.

Monty Python's Spamalot: Based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through July 5. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), 551-2000.

Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland's long-running drama about San Leandro. Through July 12. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com.

Now and at the Hour: Christian Cagigal's magic show. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 15. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-3847, www.theexit.org.

Pearls Over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Through Aug. 16, $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

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

Some Men: Playwright Terrence McNally marches through queer history. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through July 12. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.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.

Too Big to Fail: The San Francisco Mime Troupe takes on the financial meltdown. July 4-5, 2 p.m., free, www.sfmt.org. Dolores Park, Dolores (between 18th & 20th sts.), 554-9529.

 
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