The Bald Soprano. In 1948, the French-Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco set about learning English. He didn't succeed. He did, however, manage to write an intensely ridiculous version of the dialogues he found in English-language primers ("This is my husband. We live in London. It is now three o'clock."). The result was The Bald Soprano (La cantatrice chauve). In Cutting Ball's new production, translated and directed by Rob Melrose, the play is as revelatory as ever, in part because it's much funnier than you might remember. That's very much to Melrose's credit, but he is helped tremendously by Paige Rogers, who finds just the right pitch for her batty housewife. (She manages to say things like "I don't know enough Spanish to understand myself" with the deranged dignity of someone who puts great stock in her own nonsense.) Crisply staged on a spare and handsome set, the play doesn't offer much of a story, which is more or less the point: Each character speaks without seeming to hear the others. Language conquers silence, but fails to deliver meaning. The whole thing builds to a gorgeously choreographed frenzy, with the actors shouting ragged bits of dialogue while throwing themselves against a wall. It's glorious and weird, and you absolutely shouldn't miss it. Through Nov. 22 at the EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), S.F. $15-$30; 800-838-3006 or www.cuttingball.com. (Chris Jensen) Reviewed Nov. 11.
Shocktoberfest!! 2009: Torture Garden. If you see only one show at the Hypnodrome this fall, see Pearls over Shanghai. Thrillpeddlers' deliriously camped-out tribute to San Francisco's very own Cockettes delivers more madcap invention in two hours than most theater companies manage in an entire season. It's surprising, then, that Shocktoberfest!! 2009: Torture Garden — currently showing in repertory alongside Pearls — is so much less successful, despite featuring almost the same cast. The show follows a formula that should be familiar to Thrillpeddlers fans: two short Grand Guignol–style plays, each offering up a little kick of the lascivious and the macabre. In this case, however, even the significant bloodletting can't make up for the relative tedium of the material. We get too much wooden dialogue and not nearly enough gut-churning moments of, say, ritual disembowelment or forced amputation. That said, the show does feature some strong work from the Thrillpeddlers ensemble, particularly Adeola Role as a femme fatale who seems to have embraced political assassination as some kind of fetish. But Torture Garden isn't the real story here: that would be Pearls over Shanghai, recently extended until Jan. 1. To miss it would be to miss a show that's outrageously San Francisco — and outrageously good. Through Nov. 20 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Brannan), S.F. $25-$69; 377-4202 or www.thrillpeddlers.com. (C.J.) Reviewed Oct. 28.
Under the Gypsy Moon. Storylines don't really matter in a Teatro ZinZanni production; they just provide a loose framework for the circuslike acts everyone comes to see while they enjoy a fancy five-course meal. In the group's latest three-hour show, the Spiegeltent is invaded by thieving gypsies (so much for political correctness), who, in addition to being skilled swindlers, are also (surprise) skilled blues singers, jugglers, and acrobats. As one would expect, the trapeze work is impressive, especially the comic rope-play by Sabine Maier and Joachim Mohr, who manage to fall over themselves without falling down. The evening's most satisfying moments, however, happen on the ground. A juggling number set to Prince's "Kiss" is simple but delightful, and Mat Plendl dazzled the audience with his mastery of the hula hoop. Unfortunately, too many of the cabaret's comedy bits are lame. Punny punchlines delivered by a Henny Youngman-like character played by Geoff Hoyle (the original Zazu in the Broadway production of The Lion King) are especially groan-inducing. Those cheesy moments leave a bad taste in your mouth, as does some of the food, which is passable but not stellar. While Under the Gypsy Moon does deliver some magical moments, unless you've got a lot of disposable cash, it's an evening perhaps best left to the tourists to enjoy. Through Jan. 17 at the Spiegeltent, Pier 29 (at Battery), S.F. $117-$195; 438-2668 or www.zinzanni.org. (Will Harper) Reviewed Sept. 30.
Afterlife of the Mind: Questions of neuroscience and metaphysics. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 21, www.viragotheatre.org. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.org.
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.; Saturdays, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 5 p.m.; Fridays, 6:30 p.m., $25-$80, www.beachblanketbabylon.com. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.
Beautiful Thing: Two working-class London teenage boys who fall in love. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 3. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.
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.
Breve: An abbreviated version of Under the Gypsy Moon, for lunch. Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 21, $73-$94. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero & Battery), 438-2668, www.zinzanni.org.
Cotton Patch Gospel: A bluegrass holiday musical. Starting Nov. 20, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 19, www.custommade.org. The Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), 333-6389.
Drip: A drama by Christina Anderson about the shared legacies of a woman and her grandson. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 21. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.
Hamlet: The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actors perform a one-hour version. Sat., Nov. 21, 2 p.m. Noe Valley Branch Library, 451 Jersey (at Castro), 355-5707, sfpl.lib.ca.us.
I Heart Hamas: Tragicomic solo show by Jennifer Jajeh, about the Middle East. Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 21, $20, www.ihearthamas.com. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com/offmarkettheaters.
I Love a Piano: By Irving Berlin. Fri., Nov. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 21, 8 p.m. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200, www.jccsf.org.
Let It Snow!: Improv musical by the Un-Scripted Theater Company. Starting Nov. 19, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Dec. 19. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.
Me, Myself, & I Series: New solo works by D'Lo, Jeanne Haynes, Rachel Parker, and Anthem Salgado. Nov. 19-Dec. 3. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.
Monday Night ForePlays: Variety show written and acted by women, along with some of PianoFight's "male chauvinist pigs" regulars. Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 23. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com/offmarkettheaters.
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.
Mrs. Whitney: John Kolvenbach's comedy about heartbreak. Through Nov. 22. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.
Museum: Tina Howe's piece about reactions to an art exhibit. Through Nov. 22. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.
New York Values: Walk on the wild side with Penny Arcade. Nov. 20-22. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.
Not a Genuine Black Man: Brian Copeland's solo show opens once again. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 22. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com/offmarkettheaters.
November: David Mamet's comedy about President Charles Smith and his bid for re-election. Through Nov. 22. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.
Pearls Over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Jan. 23, $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.
Performing Diaspora: Artists' performance series. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 22, $15-$25. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060, www.counterpulse.org.
Point Break Live!: The boys are back in town again. Fridays, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through May 1, www.pointbreaklivesf.com. Metreon, 101 Fourth St. (at Mission), 369-6000, www.westfield.com/metreon.
Rabbi Sam: Charlie Varon's solo show about a rabbi who wants to reinvent American Judaism. Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Nov. 22. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.
Random Idiot Factor: A comic play that promises to deconstruct "our society's inadequacies into interwoven comic vignettes that ridicule our cultures most serious shortcomings. It's a lot like the future that's disappointing you right now, but if we all wore jumpsuits." Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 21, $20, www.hampantsproductions.com. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987, www.darkroomsf.com.
ReOrient 2009 — The First 10 Years: Short plays exploring the Middle East. Starting Nov. 19, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 13, www.goldenthread.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081, www.thickhouse.org.
She Stoops to Comedy: Gender-bending romp by David Greenspan. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Jan. 9. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.
Stateless: A Hip-Hop Vaudeville Experience: A multimedia collage by Dan Wolf and Tommy Shepherd. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 6. Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 292-1233, www.atjt.com.
Tilted Frame: Live improv between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 820-1656, www.cafearts.com/offmarkettheaters.
Tings Dey Happen: Dan Hoyle's solo show, directed by Charlie Varon. Through Nov. 29. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Presented by Actors Theatre of San Francisco, directed by Keith Phillips. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 19. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287, www.actorstheatresf.org.
Wicked: Meet the witches of Oz. Through Jan. 3, 2010. Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 551-2000.