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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Apr 1 2009
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The Model Apartment. Comedy may be tragedy plus time, but sometimes a tragedy is so immense that it can only devolve into savage farce. Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment, currently playing at Traveling Jewish Theatre, considers the limits of comedy by focusing on a pair of Holocaust survivors in their golden years. Lola (Naomi Newman) and Max (Jarion Monroe) are retirees making the twilight move from Brooklyn to Florida. But their new condo isn't ready, so they relocate temporarily to a model apartment in which everything is a shining, useless surface — the cigarette tray is glued to the coffee table, and the refrigerator is an unplugged prop. As they settle down to sleep, they're confronted by their Nazi-obsessed daughter, Debbie, played here in an aggressively comic and frankly stunning performance by Amy Resnick. For the rest of the night, Lola and Max find themselves dwelling on past horrors, all the while surrounded by the more banal horrors of the present. This production, smartly directed by Amy Glazer, works best whenever Debbie is onstage to dredge up her mother's unreliable memories from the concentration camp — long-buried traumas that emerge amid the oppressive Miami pastels of Lisa Clark's pitch-perfect set. The result is a disorienting, inconclusive fever dream designed to mock the notion that time heals all wounds. Through April 5 at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at 17th St.), S.F. $15-$34; 292-1233 or www.atjt.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed March 11.

Thom Pain (based on nothing). This play, as its subtitle suggests, is a one-man Beckettlike riff about "nothing," written by the incomparable Will Eno. The script was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and this production, directed by Marissa Wolf, is solidly one of the best pieces of theater I've ever witnessed. So much so, it leaves me speechless. That said, let me first riff some honest, yet terribly clichéd, adjectives: mind-blowing, confronting, difficult, heady, hilarious. If this sounds like hyperbole, let me then quote from Charles Isherwood's review of the Off-Broadway production from The New York Times: "astonishing ... audacious ... grabs us by the throat ... a small masterpiece." So really, what is this show about nothing really about? A young man (the thrilling Jonathan Bock) stands alone on a blank stage. He delivers, in a measured and controlled Rod Serling–esque tone, a stream-of-consciousness monologue about the horror and beauty of being alive. It's menacingly funny. Bock makes serious eye contact with the audience, breaking down the fourth wall and asking questions. Don't worry, you don't have to answer — they're rhetorical, aren't they? The guy seated to my right captured it best: "This show has all the emotion in that moment before a first kiss ... or a fist fight." It's brilliant. Through April 19 at the Cutting Ball Theater at the Exit, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), S.F. $15-$30; 800-838-3006 or www.cuttingball.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed March 25.

Act a Lady: Gender bending in a small, Prohibition-era town. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Actors Reading Writers: Popular local actors read modern and classic short stories. First Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m., free. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Ellsworth), Berkeley, 510-848-7800, www.berkeleycityclub.com.

American Hwangap: Lloyd Suh's drama about a Korean immigrant reuniting with his family. Starting April 4, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 3. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.

Ascension of the Blues: An American Musical Journey: Fri., April 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 4, 8 p.m., $38-$48. 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton (at Madrona), Mill Valley, 383-9600, www.142throckmortontheatre.com.

Audacious Artefacts: Parisian Grand Guignol: Through May 2, $15-$30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

Baptized to the Bone: A comedy by Dave Johnson about a theater producer scrambling for money. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 3. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 7 p.m., $5-$8, www.improv.org. Bayfront Theater, 16 Marina (at Laguna), 474-6776, www.improv.org/shows/bayfront.htm.

Beach Blanket Babylon: A North Beach perennial featuring crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Now with Rod Blagojevich! Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 5 p.m., $25-$80, www.beachblanketbabylon.com. 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, www.sheltontheater.com.

Chains of Dew: Susan Glaspell's play about a poet in the '20s, produced by San Francisco Free Civic Theatre. April 2-5, free. Randall Museum, 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), 554-9600, www.randallmuseum.org.

Confessions of a Refrigerator Mother: Carolyn Doyle's play about a day in the life of her autistic son. Starting April 2, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Discussion and Performance: Jews and Hip-Hop: Featuring Dan Wolf of Angry Black White Boy as well as the show's director, Sean San Jose. Wed., April 1, 5 p.m., free-$10. Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission (at Third St.), 655-7800, www.thecjm.org.

Divafest: Very large women-centered theater festival. April 2-25, $10-$20. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 931-1094, www.theexit.org.

Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?: April 4-5, 8 p.m., $15-$20. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410, www.voicefactorysf.org.

Eccentrics of San Francisco's Barbary Coast ... A Magical Escapade: Historical magic show with Walt Anthony, David Miller, Brian Scott, and Ruth Fraser. Starting April 3, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 27, $30, www.sanfranciscomagicparlor.com. Chancellor Hotel, 433 Powell (at Post), 362-2004, www.chancellorhotel.com.

E.O. 9066: Lunatique Fantastique's puppetry. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through April 25, $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

Evil Hamlet: Written by William Shakespeare, edited by Jim Strope. Starting April 2, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.org.

La Favorita: Pocket Opera's production of Gaetano Donizetti's opera. Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through April 5. Florence Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave. (at El Camino del Mar), 863-3330, www.famsf.org/legion/index.asp.

Grease: With American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through April 19. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor (at Market), 551-2000.

High Spirits: A musical based on Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 5. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469, www.eurekatheatre.org.

T.N.T. — Explosive Youth Theater: Young actors work with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. April 3-4, free. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

An Inspector Calls: A police inspector pays a visit to a party in 1912 in J.B. Priestley's drama, produced by San Francisco StageWorks. Starting April 2, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 25. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

Language Rooms: A Playwrights Foundation staged reading of Yussef El Guindi's play about Arab-American investigators. Tue., April 7, free. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

License to Kiss: Sabine Hettlich stars in the espionage thriller, with a side of dinner. Wednesdays-Sundays, $116-$190, 438-2668. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero & Battery), www.zinzanni.org.

The Model Apartment: Donald Margulies' play about a couple's life in Florida after surviving the Holocaust. Through April 5. Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 292-1233, www.atjt.com.

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, www.themarsh.org.

Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland returns for another go-around. Through May 2. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

The Passion of El Hulk Hogancito: Through April 5, www.kularts.org. Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission (at Sixth St.), 348-8042, www.bayanihancc.org/index.html.

Point Break Live!: Bank-robbing surfers make audiences happy. Fridays, 9 p.m., $25, www.myspace.com/pointbreaklive. CELLspace, 2050 Bryant (at 18th St.), 648-7562, www.cellspace.org.

The Pride and Prejudice Project: Play featuring Ko Labs Theater Company. April 2-4, 8 p.m., $15. The Garage, 975 Howard (at Sixth St.), 885-4006, www.975howard.com/.

Pride Open: Charles E. Polly's play explores sexual identity. Starting April 2, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 11. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Rabbi Sam: Charlie Varon's drama about a rabbi who reinvents Judaism. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 5. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

SF Follies: Name that reference in John Bisceglie's tale of the city. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 5, $35-$40, www.sffollies.com. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org.

The Shape of Things: Playwright Neil LaBute retells the story of Adam and Eve. Starting April 2, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 24. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Daily, $23-$29, www.shoppingthemusical.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

Slumber Party: Starting April 3, Fridays, Saturdays, 10 p.m. Continues through April 11, $7-$10. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com.

The Story: A reporter fabricates a story, by Tracey Scott Wilson. Through April 25. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

Tamalpais H.S. Broadway Review: Mon., April 6, 7 p.m. 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton (at Madrona), Mill Valley, 383-9600, www.142throckmortontheatre.com.

Thom Pain (based on nothing): Cutting Ball Theater produces Will Eno's one-man show. Through April 19, www.cuttingball.com. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 931-1094, www.sffringe.org.

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding: Be a part of the wedding reception. Thursdays-Saturdays, www.pier39shows.com. Theatre 39 at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero), 433-3939, www.theatre39-sf.com.

War Music: A drama by Lillian Groag about Agamemnon and Achilles. Through April 26. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

Wicked: The Tony Award–winning musical. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 27. Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 551-2000.

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