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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Dirty Little Showtunes. What if Riff and Tony borrowed 'Nardo from Anita?" Either you get that reference or you don't — and if you don't, then you might consider skipping Dirty Little Showtunes. But if you have even a cursory knowledge of shows like West Side Story, and if you have a high tolerance for quips about every possible flavor of gay sex, then you should have a great time at this extravagantly clever revue. Conceived and directed by F. Allen Sawyer, with unusually sharp lyrics by Tom Orr, Dirty Little Showtunes manages to give nods to gay adoption, gay marriage, gay sluts, aging, leather daddies, drag queens, bears, STDs, and HIV meds over the course of two fast-moving hours. First produced in 1997, the show returns to New Conservatory with some of its original cast members, along with parodies of songs from recent Broadway hits like Hairspray and Wicked. But the heart of the show remains its loving send-ups of chestnuts from The Pirates of Penzance, Anything Goes, and Sweet Charity, with all of the lyrics rewritten to be genuinely filthy. Featuring a game energetic cast and a superabundance of wit, this is one revue that doesn't feel like a rehash. Through Jan. 29 at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. $24-$40; 861-8972 or (Chris Jensen) Reviewed Jan. 12.

Three Viewings. You walk into a chapel, you sit, and when the lights go out, you listen to three grieving people — one at a time — tell you how the person they loved most died and what they did to go on afterward. It's a powerful way to spend an evening, especially since Three Viewings, a series of interlocking monologues produced by Theatre Anew, is at its best when its protagonists are at their worst — their most lost, their most uncertain, their most confused before the undeniable silence of the grave. Jeffrey Hatcher's script is unconvincing when describing people's ordinary lives, but his characters grab you by the throat when they move out of their comfort zones. Diane Bailey (who also directed) is a standout in the final monologue, and the setting — the play takes place in the beautiful Presidio Chapel — is better than any set design could be. Three Viewings is short, about 90 minutes, and few moments are wasted. The characters may not know how to make the most of their time on earth, but the show — the only thing that must go on — knows exactly what it's doing. Through Jan. 29 at the Presidio Chapel, 130 Fisher, S.F. $15-$45; (Benjamin Wachs) Reviewed Jan. 12.

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. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Bone to Pick and Diadem: Two one-woman shows about the myth of Ariadne. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 13. $15-$50. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

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.

Clybourne Park: Story of differing racial tensions over home ownership in the same neighborhood in two generations. Through Feb. 13. $7.50-$83. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

"A Hand in Desire": A "dance-theater remix of A Streetcar Named Desire" presented by EmSpace Dance. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 29. $20. Viracocha, 998 Valencia (at 21st St.), 374-7048.

Live Evil: Heavy Metal Playground – The Musical: Through Jan. 29, 8 p.m. $15-$20, all ages. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

Meltdown: Part of SF Sketchfest; with Kumail Nanjiani, Jonah Ray, Doug Benson, Rich Fulcher, Thomas Lennon, Greg Proops, and April Richardson. Sun., Jan. 30, 8 p.m. $30. Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), 928-4320.

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.

Music Night: Music and comedy with David Koechner, Garfunkel & Oats, Mike Phirman, Eli Braden and Zach Selwyn, and Chris Hardwick; part of SF Sketchfest. Sat., Jan. 29, 8 & 10:30 p.m. $25. Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), 928-4320.

Nerdist Podcast Live: Part of SF Sketchfest; with Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira. Fri., Jan. 28, 10:30 p.m. $25. Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), 928-4320.

Obscura: A Magic Show: Christian Cagigal's one-person narrative involving magic and audience participation. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through April 16. $15-$25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Out of Sight: Sara Felder's solo performance depicting a mother who's almost blind and her lesbian daughter as they attempt to "see" each other. Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Feb. 13. $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

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

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