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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Safe House. Conceived as a low-cost showcase for developing new work, the new Sandbox series at SF Playhouse is a sort of midway point between staged readings and full-blown productions. It's an ideal venue to bring out local playwright Geetha Reddy's 90-minute one-act, for which this stripped-down production seems less like a deficit than a means of greater immediacy and thematic resonance. Feeling drenched by the flood of recent historical high-water marks — Oklahoma City, Y2K, Columbine, and 9/11 — one reluctant stay-at-home mom (Amy Resnick) holes up, hides out, and starts taking her kids' safety just a wee bit too seriously. It becomes clear through Reddy's sweeping but adroitly nonlinear narrative arc just how mom's increasingly frenzied survivalism has left her daughter (Marissa Keltie) and developmentally disabled son (Cole Alexander Smith) all the more absurdly estranged from their timid investment-banker dad (Brian Herndon), let alone the rest of the world. This big-hearted black comedy could come off as lame so easily, but Reddy sets a graceful example of restraint that is taken up by Nancy Carlin's unobtrusive direction and by the actors — particularly the shrewd, perceptive, irresistible Resnick. Through March 6 at SF Playhouse Stage 2, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. $20-$40; 677-9596 or (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed Feb. 24.

Ninth Annual Bay One Acts Festival: Work by local playwrights including Crish Barth, Tim Bauer, William Bivins, Stuart Bousel, and more. Through March 13. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747,

A Cheshire Catastrophe: There's No Place Like Home: Musical comedy by the Mask & Wig Club. Fri., March 5, 8 p.m., $15-$40, Fort Mason, Cowell Theater, in Herbst Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, 345-7553,

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Beauty of the Father: Presented by the Off Broadway West Theatre Company. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through March 13. The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Post), 989-0023,

The Beebo Brinker Chronicles: Through March 13, 8 p.m., $20-$40. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657,

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

Caucasian Chalk Circle: Bertolt Brecht's play, directed by John Doyle. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through March 14. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228,

Celestial Science: March 3-6, 8 p.m., $15-$25, Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-3847,

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Presented by Young Performers Theatre. Starting March 6, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through March 28. Young Performers Theater, 204 Bay St., Fort Mason (Marina & Buchanan), 346-5550,

Dancing with the Clown of Love: Directed by Rhodessa Jones. Starting March 4, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through March 14. African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton (at Webster), 922-2049,

Den of Thieves: A story about crime by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Starting March 9, Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 17. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596,

Fo/Faux!: Presented by Eastenders Repertory Company. March 5-21. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469,

Golden Boy: Tuesdays-Thursdays. Continues through March 25. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100,

Hearts on Fire: Thelma Houston, El Vez, and Christine Deaver perform in Teatro ZinZanni's new show. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 16, $117-$145. Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

The Life Game: BATS Improv. Fri., March 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 6, 8 p.m. Bayfront Theater, 16 Marina (at Laguna), 474-6776,

Mahalia: A Gospel Musical: The story of the world's greatest gospel singer, portrayed by Jeanie Tracy. Through March 7, $18-$40. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post (at Powell), 415 474-8800,

Mirrors in Every Corner: Through March 21, 8 p.m., $15-$25. Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th St.), 626-2787,

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 for a lineup of future shows. Mondays, $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750,

Now and at the Hour: Christian Cagigal's popular magic-themed show. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through March 27. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847,

O Lovely Glowworm, or Scenes of Great Beauty: Presented by the American Conservatory Theater Master of Fine Arts Program. Starting March 4, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through March 20. Zeum, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320,

Oedipus el Rey: Luis Alfaro re-envisions Oedipus. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through March 14, Fort Mason, Laguna & Bay, 345-7500,

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through April 24, $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202,

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

Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's new show, about small-town America. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 18. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750,

Richard III: Presented by the City College of San Francisco Theatre Arts Dept. Starting March 5, Fridays-Sundays. Continues through March 14. Diego Rivera Theater/CCSF, 50 Phelan (at Judson), 239-3100,

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