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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Compulsion. In this world premiere, playwright Rinne Groff does a masterful job of dramatizing the life of author and playwright Meyer Levin, who obsessed over bringing The Diary of Anne Frank to the stage. Levin secured, and then lost, an agreement with Anne's father, Otto, to write the stage adaptation of the bestseller. This disappointment spun Levin into a righteous and obsessive spiral for the rest of his life. As the character of Levin (named Sid Silver in this play), Broadway superstar Mandy Patinkin is passionate, paranoid, sanctimonious, pitiful, and awe-inspiring — all the elements that make this portrait of an artist undeniably brilliant. Matte Osian and the talented Hannah Cabell play all the other characters, while the spirit of Anne herself is embodied by a haunting marionette. Compulsion grapples with artistic ambition, moral obligation, Hollywoodizing history, and neurotic blindness all in one thrilling night of theater. Through Oct. 31 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $10-$73; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Sept. 29.

Jerry Springer, the Opera. For all the camp and blasphemy, the West Coast premiere of Jerry Springer, the Opera, inspires more yawning than chair-throwing. Maybe it's because this is San Francisco, but shock value alone does not an operatic farce make, and there's only so much musical profanity you can take before it becomes tiresome. Directed by M. Graham Smith, with book and lyrics by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, the two-and-a-half-hour parody goes for the easy zingers, caricaturing the trailer-trash fame whores who make up the show's guests and audience. This does have a certain allure if you're in the mood, but then they had to ruin it by making it earnest. In Acts II and III, Jerry literally hears the music and starts to sympathize with the diaper-clad fetishists and dancing Ku Klux Klansmen he despises, but not before going to Hell and hosting an intervention between Jesus and Satan. While the vocal talent is impressive, the songs themselves are only catchy because of the sheer repetition and the novelty of such taboo topics as getting pissed on, sung in high falsetto. In short, go for the dick jokes, but don't stay for the attempted force-feeding of moral complexity. Through Oct. 16 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Mission), S.F. $25-$36; 863-7576 or www.roltheatre.com. (Anna Pulley) Reviewed Sept. 22.

24 Days of Central Market Arts: A 24-day festival of visual and performing arts. Through Oct. 17. www.centralmarketarts.org. Multiple San Francisco locations.

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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.

The Autumn LaughtHER Factor: All-woman sketch comedy. Through Oct. 25, 8 p.m. $20. www.pianofight.com. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.

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.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Tennessee Williams play. Through Oct. 22, 8 p.m. $26-$40. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.

Hail Caesar!: Teatro ZinZanni's new production. Through Oct. 31. $117-$145. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero and Battery), 438-2668.

IPH ...: African-American Shakespeare Company production. Through Oct. 16. $15-$35. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657.

Kiss of Blood: Thrillpeddlers' annual Shocktoberfest lineup including Grand Guignol terror plays Kiss of Blood, Lips of the Damned, The Empress of Colma. Through Nov. 19. $25-$35. thrillpeddlers.com/shocktoberfest-2010-kiss-of-blood. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

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.

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

The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo show. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 6. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

The Secretaries: A play depicting chainsaw-wielding secretaries in a Pacific Northwest lumber mill. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. $10-$30. www.crowdedfire.org/. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747.

The Shining: Live: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

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.

 
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