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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Theatre Rhinoceros' award-winning artistic director, John Fisher, is ambitious and rather prolific. Not only did he direct and star in this three-plus-hour adaptation of Oscar Wilde's only novel, he also wrote it. It's impressive in many areas (costumes, acting, commitment), but it's too long — perhaps because it's overly faithful to the original. Fisher stays true to Wilde's controversial tale of Dorian Gray (played by Aaron Martinsen), who remains young and handsome while his painted portrait changes with the ravages of hedonism and age. Fisher is deft as Lord Henry Wotton, Gray's guide into temptation, but it's hard to overcome the fact that both lead characters are unrelentingly despicable and narcissistic. Many scenes are bogged down with unending moralistic platitudes, something Fisher, if he had been been more willing to deviate from the source material, could have tempered in his adaptation. Choreographer Lia Metz stylizes some of the more dramatic moments, but to witness suicide and murder in pantomime, underscored by bursts of operatic music, feels out of place. Fisher is quite a talent, and with a bit of streamlining, Gray could be an important piece in the theatrical canon. Through Sept. 19 at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Battery), S.F. $10-$25; 800-838-3006 or www.therhino.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Sept. 8.

Trouble in Mind. Had she not refused to change its title and its ending, Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind, from 1955, would have been the first play by a black woman produced on Broadway. That might seem a bitter irony, given what it's about: an interracial theater company struggling to stage a white-liberal vision of progressivism during the first halting steps of the civil rights movement. More exactly, it's about one actress (Margo Hall) with the dubious opportunity to become the first black leading lady on Broadway. And so this urgent cultural critique has every right to toss humor and subtlety out the window; the great delight is that it doesn't. Emboldened by Robin Stanton's sensitive and only just barely strident direction, Hall and her eight castmates — Rhonnie Washington in particular — deliver a testimony of inequality that is not just devastating but also devastatingly funny. Childress didn't compromise, so Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun beat her to the history books, but as this production reminds us, Trouble in Mind was built to stand the test of time. Through Sept. 26 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $34-$55; 510-843-4822 or www.auroratheatre.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed Sept. 8.

Abigail: Salem Witch Trials – The Rock Opera: Original songs. Thursdays, 9 p.m. Continues through Sept. 23. $10. Temple, 540 Howard (at First St.), 978-9942.

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Afrosolo Arts Festival 17: Multidisciplinary arts festival presented by the AfroSolo Theatre Company. See site for schedule. Through Oct. 15. www.afrosolo.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.

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.

The Fringe Festival: Nonjuried theater festival. Through Sept. 19. free-$12.99. Multiple San Francisco locations.

Hail Caesar!: Teatro ZinZanni's new production. Through Oct. 31. $117-$145. Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 273-1620.

Jerry Springer the Opera: Through Oct. 18, 8 p.m. $20-$36. www.jerrysf.com. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.

KML Holds the Mayo: Live sketch comedy. Sept. 17-Oct. 3, 8 p.m. $15-$20. www.killingmylobster.com. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

Law and Order San Francisco Unit! The Musical (sort of)!: Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 27. $10. www.funnybutmean.com. Metreon, 101 Fourth St. (at Mission), 369-6030.

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.

Olive Kitteridge: Word for Word theater company. Through Sept. 26. $30-$40. Z Space, 450 Florida (at 17th St.), 626-0453.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Through Dec. 19. $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

Posibilidad, or the Death of the Worker: The latest by the San Francisco Mime Troupe plays in venues throughout the Bay Area. See site for schedule. Through Sept. 19. free. www.sfmt.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.

The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo show. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

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

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding: Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, 7 p.m. $88.50-$115.50. www.tonyandtinasanfrancisco.com. Swiss Louis Restaurant at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero), 421-2913.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Presented by San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. See site for schedule. Through Sept. 19. www.sfshakes.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.

 
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