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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Farragut North. At first glance, this play about backroom politicking during a presidential primary campaign shows us nothing new or revelatory. It's a chess game of spin, purposeful press leaks, sex with interns, and plenty of backstabbing. But, the great cast, led by the electrifying performance of Ben Euphrat, and the script — being made into a movie by George Clooney — makes the familiar story thoroughly engaging. Based very loosely on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run, and written by former campaign staffer Beau Willimon, Farragut North details the few intense days leading up to the Iowa primary and the infamous "Dean Scream." Willimon has changed all the names, and this fictional retelling focuses not on the presidential candidate but on his 25-year-old hotshot press secretary, here named Stephen Bellamy. Euphrat, as Bellamy, is irresistible as he backs himself into a dangerous and starry-eyed corner while having affairs, trusting devious reporters, and testing his own loyalty to his candidate. It's quite a compelling drama of one man's betrayal of his ideals and descent into dirty politics. Through March 5 at Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Alabama), S.F. $25; 800-838-3006 or www.opentabproductions.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Feb. 23.

Harper Regan. This play has a pattern. Two characters come onstage. One doesn't want to talk; the other really, really does. A series of monologues dressed up as dialogue ensues. Eventually, someone does something: seduces a college student or stabs a bar patron in the neck with a bottle. End scene. They do this for two hours. Given that practice makes perfect, it's amazing how little it works. In fact, Harper Regan has much going for it: a marvelous set, extraordinary sound design, and really good actors turning in what are — taken individually — strong performances. The script also has some subtle, clever moments. The title character and the play as a whole are opaque: You never really get to look inside, and their behavior is just bizarre enough that this is a huge problem. Even when all secrets have been revealed (the script operates under the mistaken assumption that a lack of information is necessarily dramatic), we never really know these people. We don't know what motivates them, and we certainly don't know why they'd sit through so many stilted conversations. Through March 5 at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. $30-$45; 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org. (Benjamin Wachs) Reviewed Feb. 23.

007 James Bond in Ladykiller: Live: starts at 8 p.m. (and continues through March 26) at the , 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), S.F. Admission is $20; call 401-7987 or visit www.darkroomsf.com. Starting March 4. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 26. $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

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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. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through March 26. $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Bay One Acts Festival: Local theater. Starting March 6. Wednesdays-Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 26. $20-$32. www.bayoneacts.org. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747.

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.

Clowning Your Zen: Comedy show. Fri., March 4, 7:30 p.m. $20. San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page (at Laguna), 863-3136.

Hobo Grunt Cycle: Production mixes life-size puppets and performers; it deals with wounded soldiers and illegal dog fighting in addition to hierarchies of military personnel and circus performers. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through March 5. $15-$25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Loveland: Solo show by Ann Randolph. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through March 26. $20-$100. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

What We're Up Against: A play about architects, deadlines, office politics, and gender equity. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through March 6. $20-$60. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.

 
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