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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Cirque du Soleil: Ovo. Cirque du Soleil's worldwide success has fed its dilemma of needing to invent something original with each successive touring show while adhering to its lucrative formula. Ovo distinguishes itself from the last handful of shows, much to the credit of Brazilian director and choreographer Deborah Colker and the concept, in her words, of "creating a world of insects with the emphasis on constant movement and color." Shows in the past have had vague thematic elements that were hastily abandoned when the circus power acts rolled out, but not in this case. Colker and the creative crew have gone to great lengths to bring to life the festive and miniature world as seen by insects. Each act is performed by different bug families — spiders, fire ants, grasshoppers, and even a dragonfly doing an acrobatic dance on a blade of grass. Gringo Cardia's set evokes forests, caves, webs, nests, and beautifully blooming giant flowers, all in which the insects work, eat, flutter, play, and fight. The clowns are a little lackluster in this edition, but the acts are better than ever — upside-down slackwire unicycling, a jaw-dropping display of foot juggling, and a unique rock climbing/trampoline act. Through Jan. 24 at AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, S.F. $45.50-$135; 866-624-7783 or www.cirquedusoleil.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Dec. 23.

Under the Gypsy Moon. Storylines don't really matter in a Teatro ZinZanni production; they just provide a loose framework for the circuslike acts everyone comes to see while they enjoy a fancy five-course meal. In the group's latest three-hour show, the Spiegeltent is invaded by thieving gypsies (so much for political correctness), who, in addition to being skilled swindlers, are also (surprise) skilled blues singers, jugglers, and acrobats. As one would expect, the trapeze work is impressive, especially the comic rope-play by Sabine Maier and Joachim Mohr, who manage to fall over themselves without falling down. The evening's most satisfying moments, however, happen on the ground. A juggling number set to Prince's "Kiss" is simple but delightful, and Mat Plendl dazzled the audience with his mastery of the hula hoop. Unfortunately, too many of the cabaret's comedy bits are lame. Punny punchlines delivered by a Henny Youngman-like character played by Geoff Hoyle (the original Zazu in the Broadway production of The Lion King) are especially groan-inducing. Those cheesy moments leave a bad taste in your mouth, as does some of the food, which is passable but not stellar. While Under the Gypsy Moon does deliver some magical moments, unless you've got a lot of disposable cash, it's an evening perhaps best left to the tourists to enjoy. Through Jan. 17 at the Spiegeltent, Pier 29 (at Battery), S.F. $117-$195; 438-2668 or www.zinzanni.org. (Will Harper) Reviewed Sept. 30.

Aurélia's Oratorio: Circus-themed show by Aurélia Thierrée. Through Jan. 24. Berkeley Repertory's Roda Stage, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org.

The Bald Soprano: Eugene Ionesco's comedy, directed by Rob Melrose. Starting Jan. 7, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Jan. 24. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 931-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 5 p.m.; Fridays, 6:30 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.

Bright River: Tim Barsky's hip-hop Inferno. Starting Jan. 8, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 20. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

Dames at Sea: A sly look at Hollywood musicals of the 1930s. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 17. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.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.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Jan. 23, $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

Point Break Live!: The boys are back in town again. Fridays, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through May 1, www.pointbreaklivesf.com. Metreon, 101 Fourth St. (at Mission), 369-6030, www.westfield.com/metreon.

Round-Heeled Woman: The Play: Z Space presents Jane Prowse's play about a older woman who wants to have sex. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 7, $20-$50. Z Space at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th St.), 626-0453, www.artaud.org.

She Stoops to Comedy: Gender-bending romp by David Greenspan. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Jan. 9. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

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.

The Sisters Rosensweig: By Wendy Wasserstein. Jan. 9-17. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org.

The Mark Ten's Fantastic Parade: Maria Breaux' play about a band heading into the studio. Jan. 12-30. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

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