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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Now and at the Hour. Calling it just a "magic show" doesn't seem quite right. Christian Cagigal's Now and at the Hour is part sleight of hand, part personal revelation, and part straight-up creepiness. Some magicians look and behave as if they belong on used-car lots, but not Cagigal — he's rumpled and affable, and it's a pleasure to let him snow you. At a recent performance, he chose me to participate in his first trick, a mind-reading exercise in which he seemed to pluck a fairly random and startlingly specific memory from my brain. I don't know how he managed to do it, but the appearance of occult powers was strong enough to leave me feeling unsettled and slightly violated for the rest of the evening. Between each bit of magic, he tells stories of growing up with his father, a Vietnam vet who suffered from schizophrenia; by show's end, you get the sense that learning the art of illusion was young Cagigal's way of exerting power over a messy reality. Magic is a lonely discipline, full of secrets — but here, at least, is a performer who managed to put all of his childhood loneliness to thrilling use. Through Aug. 15 at EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. $15-$25; 673-3847 or www.sffringe.org. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed July 8.

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.

Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2009: Five new plays. Through July 26, www.playwrightsfoundation.org. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.

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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.

Ecstasy: A Water Fable: Denmo Ibrahim's adaptation of a Sufi fable. Starting July 23, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 16, www.goldenthread.org. The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Post), 989-0023, www.phoenixtheatresf.org.

James Judd's "Whoop Click!": A mix of comedy, theater, and variety show, with rotating guests every week. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 22, $20, brownpapertickets.com/event/70440. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com.

Lady of the 'Loin: Don Seaver and Sean Owens' ode to the TL. July 25-Aug. 15, 9 p.m., $15. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-3847, www.theexit.org.

L'Amico Fritz: San Francisco Opera's production of Pietro Mascagni's work. July 24-26, www.sfopera.com. Fort Mason, Cowell Theater, in Herbst Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, 345-7553, www.fortmason.org.

The Laughing Samoans' Prettyfull Woman: A new show by the comedy duo. Sat., July 25, 7:30 p.m., $15-$50, all ages, www.laughingsamoans.com. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), 392-4400, www.sfwmpac.org.

Lettucetown Lies: Kenny Yun comes of age in Salinas. Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through July 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Maidrid's Bow: An Amazon Tale: Morgan Ludlow's comedy inspired by Proposition 8. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 8. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.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.

Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland's long-running drama about San Leandro. Through Aug. 23. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com.

Only the Truth Is Funny: Rick Reynolds'one-man show. Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 30. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.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.

Putting It Together: A revue of Stephen Sondheim's musicals. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 8. The Custom Stage, 965 Mission (at Sixth St.), www.custommade.org.

Rent Boy Ave.: A Fairy's Tale: Nick Olivero retells Hansel and Gretel in an urban rock fairy tale. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 9. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

San Francisco Theater Festival: Theater troupes from around the Bay Area perform for free. Sun., July 26, 11 a.m., free, www.sftheaterfestival.org. Yerba Buena Gardens, Fourth St. & Mission, 284-9589, www.yerbabuenagardens.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.

Songs to Make You Gay: Connie Champagne onstage. Go ahead, give it a shot. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 1. 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.

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