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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Becoming Julia Morgan. This life story of California's first licensed woman architect was written by Belinda Taylor, described in the program as "playwright, journalist, and arts marketing consultant." And the play itself, spread thin with related but divergent aspects, reflects that description: It is stagy, journalistically scrupulous, and essentially a public-relations effort on behalf of its protagonist — mounted here in a building she designed. Well, fine; Morgan's talent and determination were self-evidently great. After the uphill battle of her education at UC Berkeley and Paris' Ecole des Beaux-Arts came the steeper hill of a career more or less launched by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and sustained by association with the megalomaniacal William Randolph Hearst. Although that story is less dramatized than described, Janis Stevens plays the part of Morgan with aplomb and generosity (and, in director Barbara Oliver's production, with Paul Baird, Sally Clawson, and Dave Garrett in multiple supporting roles), making the character hers and ours. Lines like "I am not one of those talking architects" and "I don't need anyone to mediate my work" will attest to Morgan's biography-blocking reticence on matters of her private life. But Taylor and company's undauntedness seems like a fitting tribute. Through Jan. 9 at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley. $15-$45; 510-984-3864 or www.juliamorganproject.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed Dec. 22.

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.

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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. Through Jan. 9. $15-$60. www.sweetcanproductions.com. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), 273-4633.

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. Continues through Jan. 15. $30-$50. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

Dirty Little Showtunes: Bawdy parody of songs from Broadway productions. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 16. $29-$36. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

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. Tuesdays-Fridays, Sundays. 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-$30. www.pianofight.com. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.

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: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 2. $15-$18. www.yoowho.org. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

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.

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.

Santaland Diaries: David Sedaris' story becomes a play, performed by David Sinaiko. Through Dec. 30. $20-$30. www.cafearts.com. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

Secret Improv Society: Underground improvisational theater. Saturdays, 10 p.m. $15. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. $23-$29. www.shoppingthemusical.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Shrek the Musical: Story of an ogre rescuing a princess; based on the motion picture. Through Jan. 2. Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 551-2000.

Siddhartha, The Bright Path 2010: A play on the life of Gotama Buddha. Through Jan. 9. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Snob Theater: Variety show. Thu., Dec. 30, 10 p.m. $10. www.snobtheater.tumblr.com. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

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.

Upper Cut Improv Showcase: Improv and sketch comedy. Fridays, 7 p.m. $5. San Francisco Comedy College, 414 Mason (at Geary), 921-2051.

 
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