The Wizard of Oz meets the dreaded Filipino fiend the aswang: Does this sound weird, even for a high-concept play? Maybe, but Banyan, by Bay Area playwright Jeannie Barroga, now enjoying its world premiere after a three-year workshop run, is as eccentric as San Francisco theater gets. The aswang is a creature from the rich folklore of the Philippines, a terrifying liver-, soul-, and fetus-sucking spirit that assumes different shapes and stalks the jungle with its feet pointing backward. How do you spot an aswang masquerading as an ordinary human? Ignore, for a moment, its nasty protruding tongue, which can manifest in any friend. The thing to notice is that your reflection in its eye will be upside down, as the beast follows you down the yellow brick road.
Banyan is no traditional Wizard production, journeying not to Oz but into the heart of corporate America, where a young woman who works in the shredding room of a business gradually wakes to the corruption all around her. On a vacation back to her cultural homeland in the Philippines, she's joined by a cast of characters that includes the nefarious aswang and terrorist guerrillas, who may or may not prompt a relieved "There's no place like home!" from the heroine as she tackles the jungles. As an Asian American Theater Company production, Banyan promises a level of political awareness that should balance your minimum daily camp requirement. It previews at 8 p.m. on Thursday (and opens Friday, continuing through Nov. 20) at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 626-5416 or visit www.asianamericantheater.org.
-- Frako Loden
Imagine if Buster Keaton had loved hip hop dance and used customized crutches. This gives you a start on Bill Shannon, but it's not the whole story: He also dances on a moving skateboard through the streets of New York City. Although he's never had formal training, Shannon wins grant upon grant from the dance and art worlds. He says, "I know choreographers, but I am not one of them. I also know dancers, but I am not like them either." Watch him spin and hover midair, and you'll wish they were more like him. His performance "Dances, Drawings, and Ideas About Space" starts at 4 p.m. at the Headlands Center for the Arts, 944 Fort Barry (near Simmonds), Marin Headlands. Admission is $8-10; call 331-2787 or visit www.headlands.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Mugwumpin wings it
Narrative? Plot? Finished script? These things are old hat, especially to San Francisco-based theater company Mugwumpin. The wildly inventive troupe, whose abstract Rabbit Causes Dog won Best Play at last year's Fringe Festival, is at it again with another visually inspired and movement-oriented stage piece. Conceived by Yuval Boim and Denmo Ibrahim, Symphony of Frogs takes place in the surreal world of Apartment 2B, the ever-changing home of Constance and Paul, where bizarre incidents abound, such as a woman dragging a desert through the living room and a bride's getaway car getting lodged in the icebox.
Part of the Fury Factory festival of cutting-edge works, Symphony opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), S.F. Tickets are $10; call (866) 468-3879 or visit www.foolsfury.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Taming music history
The Deadly Snakes often sound like a Nick Cave tribute band, which is fine by us (Cave started mimicking himself long ago; it's nice to hear someone else give it a shot). But this 10-year-old group doesn't simply weep and rage in the dirt. Influences ranging from the Zombies to Captain Beefheart also show up on its latest release, Porcella (titled after a Roman law concerning pork butchery), which jumps genres with aplomb. "Gore Veil," in particular, shows a flair for underground '60s pop, with its deadpan bap-ba-da-bas, its Lou Reed-like regard for proper enunciation, and its rippling Ennio Morricone trumpets.
The band plays with the Emmanuelles and the Cuts on Thursday, and with Yikes and Tunnel of Love on Friday, at 9:30 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $7; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Zoyres refers to the Yiddish word for sour vegetables, the pickled stuff that anchors the Eastern European diet. As a band name, the term contains inherent flaws, but not if your act employs clarinets and trombones and plays klezmer and Balkan music, as does the Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment. Like pickling a cucumber, the trio, led by Mike Perlmutter and his sax, brings a new, slightly tweaked approach to the old-world sound. Circle up and dance to "Rushishe Sher"'s marching (or plodding, if you've got the spirit of a meshugeneh) beats at 9 p.m. at the Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-1447 or visit www.arguslounge.com.
-- Michael Leaverton