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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Clue. It's worrisome when the preshow announcement to a play based on a 1985 cult classic film includes a caveat that audience-goers should probably be drunk, and also that we should watch the movie at least five times in order to "get" the play. Luckily, neither of those prerequisites were necessary to enjoy Clue, the ribald and disorderly murder mystery based on the popular board game (and film). The play stays faithful to the film's plot, while also mocking its wonky editing and mysteriously disappearing accents in asides to the audience, which adds a boisterous freshness to the whodunit spoof. Big ups go to Mrs. Peacock (J. Conrad Frank aka Katya Smirnoff-Skyy) for a spot-on, hysterical impression of film icon Eileen Brennan, and to Mrs. White (Michelle Ianiro), whose unhinged sauciness adds a delightful layer of bring-it to the role. The stage itself is a life-size board that the audience looks down at from above, creating a visually arresting Petri dish effect (after the Friday show, the cast plays Clue-the-game as life-size playing pieces). For all the play's pleasant predictability, one minor grievance was the unnecessary use of blackface for a minor character. Barring that, however, Clue is a highly energetic spectacle that definitely holds up a candlestick to the movie. Through Feb. 19 at the Boxcar Theater, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), S.F. $25-$35; 776-1747 or www.boxcartheatre.org. (Anna Pulley) Reviewed Jan. 26.

Mike Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult. Let me be audacious. Theater is about storytelling, and Mike Daisey is the best storyteller out there. He has a simple style, similar to Spalding Gray's monologues, of sitting at a wooden desk, with a glass of water and some notes he occasionally refers to. He doesn't stutter, search "naturally" for lines, or ever say "umm"; he is intense, has a barely contained madness behind his eyes, and hardly pauses for two thrilling hours. The subject of this monologue is money, the "liquid that bonds us together and corrodes all our relationships" and yet lets us obsessively buy "awesome shit." While weaving a fascinating, Indiana Jones–style tale of traveling to the South Pacific to an "island just beyond the reach of money," Daisey confronts us, as well as himself, with funny and painful anecdotes of our devotion to the religion of the dollar, educates us about the recent financial crash, and celebrates our obsession with "wanting." It's clear all along that Daisey is a masterful artist, unafraid to be unsympathetic, and to be the perpetrator and as well as the victim in his stories. This is a must-see theatrical experience. Through Feb. 27 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $29-$73; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Jan. 26.

Treefall. It's the end of the world as we know it, and three teenage boys who've formed a happenstance family don't feel fine at all. In Henry Murray's postapocalyptic doomfest directed by Ben Ranle, sunlight can kill you, foraging for abandoned canned tomatoes is your best shot at dinner, and people are scarce, hostile, or infected with a mysterious deadly virus. In this world, three boys attempt to carve meaning out of chaos by adopting traditional gender roles and daily rituals: Flynn (Evan Johnson) plays the father, August (Josh Schell) the mother, and Craig (Sal Mattos) the son. Their uneasy familial ceremonies are soon disrupted by a wayward scavenger named Bug (Corinne Robkin), the first girl they have encountered in years, and who swiftly, yet unintentionally, upends the tenuous identities they've created. The dilapidated, near-absence of a set adeptly conveys the bleakness of the play's tone. Though the writing could be sharper, Treefall's provocative confrontations mostly conquer a few overwrought lines of dialogue. I could've done without Craig's continual recitations from Romeo and Juliet, as well as his irritating ruminations with a doll, but his escapism wasn't entirely unwarranted, and the struggle to come to grips with his homosexuality heightened the tension of the already fraught norms of his all-male nuclear family. Expect nudity and violence, but also a sense of hope amid the cultural and spiritual decay. Through Feb. 27 at the New Conservatory Theater, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. $24-$40; 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org. (Anna Pulley) Reviewed Feb. 9.

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40 Pounds in 12 Weeks: A Love Story: Pidge Mead's solo performance about weight loss, body issues, parental relationships, and the dynamics of friendship. Starting Feb. 18. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through March 26. $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Adrienne Rich: City Arts & Lectures. Tue., Feb. 22, 8 p.m. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), 392-4400.

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.

Clybourne Park: Story of differing racial tensions over home ownership in the same neighborhood in two generations. Through Feb. 20. $7.50-$83. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

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