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Our critics weigh in on local theater

A Perfect Ganesh. The experience of modern-day India is nearly impossible to describe to a Westerner. It is simultaneously spiritual and maddening. This production of Terrence McNally's 1993 play beautifully and achingly captures India's contradictions and allure. It's a familiar premise: Two middle-aged women from Connecticut, old friends both devastated by the loss of a child, both seeking some intangible healing, travel to India. The subtle yet powerful sound design transforms the elegantly simple set into many moody locales: a hotel balcony looking over a nighttime sea of people in Mumbai; a train ride through a long, dark of tunnel; and the entrance lawn of the Taj Mahal. There's the obvious tension between one character who is content to see India from "a comfortable seat and a suitable distance," and the other who wants to walk among people and meet them. There is also the subtle tension of a foreign land drawing out the hurt and more primal emotion of the characters reminiscent of a Paul Bowles novel. The performances and production are pitch-perfect and conjure all the continent's mysterious magic. Through Dec. 19 at New Conservatory Theatre, 25 Van Ness (at Fell), SF. $18-40; 861-8972 or www.nctsf.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Nov. 24.

Babes in Arms: 42nd Street Moon presents this Rodgers and Hart classic. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 19. $24-$44. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

Beach Blanket Babylon: Steve Silver's musical revue spoofs pop culture with extravagant costumes. Wednesdays-Sundays. $25-$130. 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.

The Business: A Comedy Show: With Chris Garcia, Sean Keane, Alex Koll, and Bucky Sinister. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. $5. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

Candid: Holiday circus stage show. Dec. 17-19; Sun., Dec. 26; Dec. 28-Jan. 2; Jan. 6-9. $15-$60. www.sweetcanproductions.com. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), 273-4633.

Christmas Crap-Array: The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco leads this holiday parody in solos, groups, full chorus, and audience sing-along. Dec. 16-18. $20-$40. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Christmas in Hell: A new play by Jim Fourniadis about the two guys who saved Christmas. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 18. $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

Cinderella: Annual production of the African-American Shakespeare Company; directed by Velina Brown. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 19. $10-$30. www.african-americanshakes.org. African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton (at Webster), 922-2049.

Coraline: A cautionary tale about attaining a perfect life that turns out to be not so perfect. Play and music by David Greenspan and Stephin Merritt. Tuesdays-Saturdays; through Jan. 15. $30-$50. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

"Fauxgirls!": Third Saturday of every month, 10 p.m. free. www.fauxgirls.com. Kimo's, 1351 Polk (at Pine), 885-4535.

Forever Tango: Created and directed by Luis Bravo; a cast of dancers and musicians traces the tango's history, from its beginnings in turn-of-the-20th-century Buenos Aires bordellos to its acceptance into high society. Starting Dec. 21. Tuesdays-Fridays, Sundays; Sat., Jan. 1. Continues through Jan. 9. $55-$100. Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900.

Forking II: A Merry Forking! Christmas: PianoFight's fully scripted choose-your-own-adventure play. Through Dec. 30. $20. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.

"The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes": w/ Heklina, Cookie Dough, Matthew Martin, Pollo Del Mar, Mike Finn, Laurie Bushman, Jane Wiedlin. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 & 9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. $25. www.heklina.com. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060.

Katya's Holiday Spectacular: Katya Smirnoff-Skyy stars in this one-night benefit. Sun., Dec. 19, 7 p.m. $30-$35. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

The Man of Rock: Musical set in the 1980s. Dec. 16-23, 8 p.m. $15-$35. www.climatetheater.org. The Jewish Theater, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 292-1233.

Match: Expression Productions; new play by Stephen Belber. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 19. $12-$28. Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa (at Harrison), 558-1749.

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.

Mr. YooWho's Holiday: Starting Dec. 18. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 2. $15-$18. www.yoowho.org. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

Obscura: Christian Cagigal's magic show. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 18. $15-$25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

The Oddman Family Christwanzaakuh Spectacular: New musical by John Caldon and Joey Price. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 18. $20. www.guerrillarep.org. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Party of 2: A show of songs about two people who meet and move in together, exploring issues of love and proximity. Tuesdays. Continues through Jan. 4. $14.50-$29. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Peaches Christ Superstar: With Peaches & Chilly Gonzales. Sat., Dec. 18, 8 p.m. $30, all ages. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), 392-4400.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Continues through April 9. $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

Rock 'n' Roll Cinderella: Set in the 1950s. Cinderella loves to dance, but must fight her evil stepmother and stepsisters to have any fun. Through Dec. 31. $10-$15. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

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