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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Oct 15 2008
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7 Beggars. I have no idea why Tim Barsky is not a huge household name; he is a megatalent. The Oakland-based Barsky is an unbelievable beatboxer, heartfelt storyteller, poet, flutist, and even a hip-hop harpist. This show is an urban reworking of a 19th-century epic folktale by Reb Nachman. The story has many levels, involving magical visits from a series of beggars who each impart wisdom about love and justice, war and revolution. At times the plot can be confusing to follow, but it serves as a loose structure for Barsky to combine his personal narrative and beliefs in quite an emotionally affecting show. He shares the stage with the very talented Brandi Brandes, who plays all sorts of live percussion while Barsky electronically loops a sound tapestry of rain, wind, traffic sounds, and beats created live with his voice to underscore the story. He switches easily from some clowning worthy of Cirque du Soleil to syncopated poetry about Oakland's violence. The small and unassuming Climate Theater, under the new and thoughtful direction of Jessica Heidt, makes true to its motto: Small Theater, Big Art. Through Oct. 18 at the Climate Theater, 285 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. $20; www.climatetheater.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Oct. 8.

A Bronx Tale. Chazz Palminteri's warm-hearted autobiographical 1989 solo play is, theoretically, about an Italian-American boy's relationship with two father figures – a hard-working, morally upstanding bus driver by the name of Lorenzo, and Sonny, the neighborhood wiseguy. In reality, it's about young Cologio's relationship with Sonny. It doesn't matter that Lorenzo, the 9-year-old protagonist's actual dad, is a genuinely lovable fellow who stands up to bullies and attempts to imbue a firm sense of right and wrong in his young offspring. As likable as he is, Lorenzo fades to gray next to the colorful, complex, and ultimately more engrossing figure of Sonny. Revived by the now-56-year-old actor on a post-Broadway tour, the play exudes warmth and narrative drive. But Sonny's domination threatens to undermine the solo show format. A few tweaks to Palminteri's text and director Jerry Zaks' staging would create a better balance among Sonny, Lorenzo, and the other characters. For one thing, the descriptions of Sonny's coterie of sidekicks such as Frankie Coffee Cake (so called owing to his acne-scarred face), Eddie Mush (who turns everything to "mush" because of his bad luck), and Jojo the Whale (no explanation necessary) feel belabored. For another, there's something boringly formulaic about the way in which many solo performers — Palminteri included — spin around and clap to indicate when they're switching roles. Through Oct 19 at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $40-$85; 512-7770 or www.shnshf.com.(Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Oct. 8.

I'm Yours! Or: Deranged by Love. In Precarious Theatre's original production, it's all fun and games until people start singing. Freely adapted from an episode in Don Quixote, the show concerns two pairs of young lovers who stumble through a long series of misunderstandings and mistaken identities en route to true love. (The plot wouldn't be out of place in Shakespeare, and in fact served as the basis for a lost play he possibly co-wrote.) There's much to admire here, from Christian Cagigal's ingenious puppet work to the precise, energetic performances by the cast. The problem is that writer and director Matthew Graham Smith decided a mere romantic comedy wasn't enough — what we really needed, apparently, was a musical. That's a shame, because from the unnecessary opening number to the uninspired love songs, the original music by H.P. Mendoza (Colma: The Musical) is far too earnest and conventional for an otherwise irreverent and inventive play. Almost every time somebody starts singing, the show's tone and pace get thrown out of whack; it would have been better for everyone involved to drop the musical and just focus on the comedy. Through October 25 at EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $10-$30; call 800-838-3006 or visit www.precarioustheatre.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed Oct. 15.

Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights: Gertrude Stein's musical based on the story of Faust. Through Oct. 19. Diego Rivera Theater/CCSF, 50 Phelan (at Judson), 239-3100.

Eight Sketches, One Portrait of Arley Levine: A staged reading of a play by Ruth Kirschner, produced by Artists Development Lab. Wed., Oct. 15, 1 p.m. free. Z Space Studio, 131 10th St. (at Mission), 626-0453.

Family Baggage: A series of tragicomic vignettes by Errol Strider and Lou Montgomery exploring dysfunctional families. Through Oct. 18. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

Flux: San Francisco–based Dohee Lee explores metaphysical questions about life through Korean-influenced dance and music. Oct. 16-18. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third St.), 978-2787.

Good Breeding: In Robert O'Hara's erotic and feminist new adaptation of the Greek Oresteia, the House of Atreus becomes a New York club resembling Studio 54. Through Oct. 25. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

The History Boys: A drama by Alan Bennett about eight English schoolboys vying for admittance to prestigious universities. Through Oct. 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Last Christmas: A staged reading of a play by Jon Brooks. Tue., Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell).

Machinal: A drama by Sophie Treadwell in which mounting pressure stresses a mechanized society. Through Oct. 19. SFSU Campus/Little Theater, 1600 Holloway (at 19th Ave.) (Creative Arts Bldg.), 338-2467.

May Day Parade: Bugles, Bass Drums and the Baptist Church: A one-man comedy by Wayne Harris. Through Nov. 9. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Moby Dick: The Musical: When a financial crisis hits their school, the girls of St. Godley's Academy for Young Ladies decide to mount a musical version of Moby Dick. Through Oct. 19. Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), 861-5079.

The Monk: Based on a 1795 novel by Matthew Lewis, this is a gothic tale of a 17th-century Spanish friar, Ambrosio, led into dissolution by an impoverished nun and a dissolute aristocrat. Staged by No Nude Men Productions. Through Nov. 22. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

My Hot Lobotomy: A multidisciplinary comedy by David Szlasa that explores how far one character will go for peace of mind. Oct. 17-Nov. 2. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060.

My Name Is Vera Cupido: A poetic search for love beyond death. Through Nov. 2. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck's drama about California migrant field workers, directed by Keith Phillips and Phaedra Starr. Through Nov. 29. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.

Orchards: An evening of short plays adapted from stories by Anton Chekhov. Through Oct. 25. Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477.

The Rocky Horror Show: A live version of the film cult classic, produced by Ray of Light Theatre. Oct. 17-Nov. 15. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.

Russian on the Side: In this one-man comedy cabaret, Mark Nadler performs musical classics from Stravinsky to Sondheim. Through Nov. 16. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900.

Shocktoberfest!! 2008: Elemental Horror: A collection of one-act plays in the style of Grand Guignol terror theater, pitting the players against ice, fire, electro-magnetism, and each other. Oct. 16-Nov. 22. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 248-1900.

Snow White: A riotous spoof by Stephanie Temple. Through Oct. 19. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

The Taming of the Shrew: Off Broadway West Theatre Company's adaptation of Shakespeare's tale. Through Oct. 18. Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.

Tenaya Rocks! A Sexy Geological Cabaret: Tenaya Hurst is a geo-anthropactress — a comedic intersection of geologist, anthropologist, and actress. Through Nov. 15. $20. www.tenayahurst.com. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell).

Towle's Hill: A drama by Mark Kenward that tells the story of Gundlach Bundschu, California's oldest family-owned-and-operated winery. Through Nov. 21. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Trolley Dances: Dancers use Muni's T-Third line as a stage for creative performances in this crowd-pleasing two-day event. Performances by Scott Wells and Dancers, Zaccho Dance Theatre, Epiphany Productions, San Diego Dance Theater, Philein / Zi Ru Tiger Hip Hop, and Adigun Sipho Capoeira Angola. Sat., Oct. 18, 11 a.m.; Sun., Oct. 19, 11 a.m. $1.50. www.epiphanydance.org. Mission Bay Branch Library, 960 Fourth St. (at Berry), 355-2838.

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom with Sleeping Beauty, or Coma: In these two comedies by Charles Busch, vampiresses meet up in Sodom and a young office temp becomes the face of the 1960s. Through Nov. 1. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell).

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