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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Ruined. According to Berkeley's Rep's press release, Lynn Nottage's play is an "intense and important tale" about "important issues," and "you'd better listen." The script won a Pulitzer, a Drama Desk Award, an Obie, and a dozen other honors. It's about something devastating, sobering, and true — the systematic and brutal rape of women in the Congo. But, just because it's about an important subject doesn't make it great theater. The set, by Clint Ramos, is beautiful: a colorful, ramshackle brothel tucked away like an oasis amid a brutal civil war. The portrayals of the women seeking food, shelter, and work (prostitution) and the volatile soldiers seeking booze, comfort, and womanly entertainment feel grounded and authentic. And, the live music, performed by Broken Chord (Daniel Baker and Aaron Meicht), brings a welcome lightheartedness to the menacing mood. These positive elements don't make up for an overall feeling of disconnection. Liesl Tommy's direction feels more presentational and heavy-handed than personal and heartfelt, as if it's saying, "You need to care and feel about this" when it ultimately fails to deliver as emotionally connected theater. Through April 10 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $29-$73; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed March 23.

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. Saturdays. Continues through April 30. $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

7 Sins ... One More Time!: Solo performance by comedian James Judd. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through April 10. $24.81-$40. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

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: Wednesdays, 8 p.m. $5. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

Three Plays by Will Eno: Cutting Ball Theater stages three short plays by Will Eno, Lady Grey, Intermission, and Mr. Theatre Comes Home Different. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 10. $15-$50. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

Loveland: Solo show by Ann Randolph. Fridays, Saturdays; Sundays. Continues through May 8. $20-$100. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

M. Butterfly: David Henry Hwang's play. Thursdays-Saturdays; Sundays, April 3 and 10. Continues through April 16. $20-$28. Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough (at Bush).

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.

The Oldest Profession: Paula Vogel's play about five women in their 70s. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Sat., April 9, 3 p.m. Continues through April 9. $10-$25. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657.

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

Regrets Only: The complications of modern life and marriage in Manhattan. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 3. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

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.

Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven: Satire on race written by Young Jean Lee. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 30. $15-$25. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

Tingel Tangel: Ann Magnuson, Orlando Infinito, Taylor Mac, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Uni and Her Ukulele, and many others perform at this queer and queer-friendly cabaret-style variety show. Thu., March 31, 9 p.m. $16-$20. Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), 861-5016.

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.

Too Caliente to Handle: A sister and brother lead a rebellion in an attempt to live out their dreams in show business. Thursdays-Sundays; Wed., April 27; Wed., May 11; Tue., May 17; Through June 19. $91-$186. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero and Battery), 438-2668.

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

Wirehead: New play by Benjamin/Brown. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 23. $40-$50. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

 
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