By Joseph Geha
By Jonathan Kiefer
By Katie Tandy
By Mollie McWilliams
By Jennifer Baires
By Jonathan Curiel
By Sherilyn Connelly
Reborning. It seems wrong to describe a play that hinges on trauma, suffering, and creepily realistic infant dolls as hilarious, but Reborning is just that. At times sitcom-y, at others heavily symbolic, Reborning bandies between levity and loss without missing a beat. Reborning-the-hobby is an art form that involves creating realistic replicas of babies for collectors. In Reborning-the-play, latex artist Kelly (Lauren English) creates babies to help people cope with the loss of their children, a practice that is rare in the real world, according to the bright-blue disclaimer that comes with the program. Portraying a young woman coming to grips with being abandoned at birth in truly horrific circumstances, English captures the quiet heaviness of Kelly's past with remarkable aptness and a barely concealed nervous energy. Daizy (Alexander Alioto) shines as her somewhat clueless yet well-intentioned dildo-making boyfriend, and Emily (Lorri Holt), Kelly's latest client, rounds out the small, exemplary cast with the marvelously addled air of a businesswoman in retreat from reality. Directed with just the right balance of rawness and finesse by Zayd Dohrn, Reborning proves that grim topics and taboos can also be damn funny. References to Sigmund Freud abound, proving that you can, in fact, say one thing but mean a mother. Through June 11 at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. $30-$50; 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org. (Anna Pulley) Reviewed May 25.
A Streetcar Named Desire. It's tempting to call this new production A Streetcar Named Desire's triumphant return to the stage. But, of course, Streetcar never really left. It's such a piece of Americana that even if you've never seen it, you know the tropes by heart, much the same way that even if you never formally learned the national anthem you still know where the high notes are. But make no mistake: The Actors Theatre production is triumphant. Not only does this taut, intense show do author Tennessee Williams justice, it also does him proud. Between superb direction and across-the-board standout performances, every one of his perfectly balanced scenes of culture clash and human frailty realizes its potential. Iconic moments like Stanley Kowalski (Vlad Sayenko) standing on a balcony shouting his wife's name over and over again ("STELLA!" — Jennifer Welch) live up to the impossible expectations half a century of performances have given us. The only reason not to see this production is if you're faint of heart: Williams wanted you to leave shaken and distressed. The Actors Theatre brings his vision to life, and leaves you stunned. Through June 25 at Actors Theatre of San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Mason), S.F. $26-$38; 345-1287 or www.actorstheatresf.org. (Benjamin Wachs) Reviewed May 25.
Vice Palace. Combine Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" with Fellini's La Dolce Vita, persuade most of your actors to show off their peens, then stage the whole thing as a '30s musical revue. You might end up with something like Vice Palace, but you'll be lucky if your version is anywhere near as much fun to watch. Thrillpeddlers' latest revival of a musical by the Cockettes — the ragtag band of gender-fucking misfits who enjoyed a brief heyday in San Francisco from 1969 to 1972 — isn't quite as solid as Pearls Over Shanghai, the company's long-running foray into psychedelic burlesque. But it's still a good-natured evening of minimally polished, unapologetically trashy entertainment. (If you're uncomfortable with the prospect of seeing a naked dude pull decorative ribbon out of his ass, then you might want to choose another show.) Vice Palace was the last musical performed by the Cockettes before the troupe disbanded, and some of the numbers demonstrate a cleverness, even a compositional maturity, that wouldn't have been out of place when Cole Porter and Jerome Kern ruled Broadway. Of course, Cole Porter never wrote a song called "A Crab on Uranus." Oh, well — his loss, I guess. Through July 31 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. $30-$35; www.thrillpeddlers.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed May 11.
All Atheists Are Muslim: Written and performed by Zahra Noorbakhsh. Starting June 5. Sundays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 10. $20. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433.
Assassins: By Stephen Sondheim. Starting June 4. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 25. $20-$36. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.
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.
"The Black Jew Dialogues": Written and performed by Ron Jones and Larry Jay Tish. A discussion will follow after the performance. Sat., June 4, 8 p.m. $20. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.
The Business: A Comedy Show: Wednesdays, 8 p.m. $5. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.
The Edenites: No Nude Men Productions stages a play about San Francisco by Stuart Bousel. Starting June 2. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 25. $12-$25. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.
Free Fridays! Improv Show: Fridays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through June 24. free. Alcove Theater, 414 Mason (at Derby).
Geezer: Geoff Hoyle's solo performance about what it's like to grow old. Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through July 10. $20-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
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