By Jonathan Ramos
By Juan De Anda
By Mollie McWilliams
By Juan De Anda
By Mollie McWilliams
By Juan De Anda
By Jonathan Curiel
By Alexis Coe
Let Me Down Easy. Anna Deavere Smith is a revelation on the Berkeley Rep stage. She's an accomplished actress with lead roles in West Wing and Nurse Jackie, and profoundly skilled storyteller and mimic. She spent a decade interviewing hundreds of people (a rodeo rider, a prizefighter, a preacher, a New Orleans nurse, even Lance Armstrong and Lauren Hutton) about their relationships to their bodies and spirits as they age and get closer to death. With the help of director Leonard Foglia, Smith uses her unique performance style to channel their voices verbatim with careful attention to gesture and cadence, telling a story, in her words, "about life as much as death, about a search for grace." Close your eyes and hear more than 20 characters speaking intimately about their journeys toward the grave, including Armstrong confessing how his fear of death drives his cycling, Joel Siegal cracking jokes on his deathbed, and a Buddhist monk pondering how we go about dying and what might be next. It's stunning, beautiful, and transcendent. Through July 10 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $17-$93; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. (Nathaniel Eaton ) Reviewed June 22.
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. Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 10. $20. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433.
Assisted Living: The Musical: A musical comedy about getting old. Saturdays, Sundays, noon. Continues through Dec. 31. $79.59-$99.50. 888-885-2844. www.assistedlivingthemusical.com. Imperial Palace, 818 Washington (at Grant), 888-885-2844.
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 Business: A Comedy Show: Wednesdays, 8 p.m. $5. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.
Geezer: Geoff Hoyle's solo performance about what it's like to grow old. Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays; Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Sept. 18. $20-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Monday Night Marsh: Musicians, actors, performance artists, and others take the stage at this regular staging of works in progress. Mondays. $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Rare Earth: Directed by Randy Symank. Starting July 8. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through July 10. $15-$20. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060.
The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo performance. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through July 23. $25-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
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.
Tigers Be Still: A dark comedy involving graduate degrees, art therapy, family strife, and employers with guns. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through July 30. $20-$50. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
The Tinker Show: Sketch comedy, improv, and short films involving "old-school immaturity" and strong adult themes. July 8-9. $9-$18. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433.
Twilight Zone Live: Season 8: Local actors and directors bring episodes of Rod Serling's famous TV show to life onstage. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 30. $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.
Upper Cut Improv Showcase: Improv and sketch comedy. Fridays, 7 p.m. $5. San Francisco Comedy College, 414 Mason (at Geary), 921-2051.
Your F!#&ed Up Relationship: Improv based on real-life relationship problems supplied by audience members. Fridays. free. Alcove Theater, 414 Mason (at Derby).