Like most theatergoers, you're probably accustomed to a strict narrative and a well-defined plotline; perhaps you're used to seeing plays that take place in a living room or kitchen where someone is berating someone else over matters of love or money or criminal activity. It's called realism, right? But real life is way more complex than that. So, maybe it's time to stray from the kitchen-sink drama and take a little walk on the wild side.
Cutting Ball Theater, long a home of anti-linear, against-the-rules stagecraft, is producing "Avant GardARAMA!," an evening of one-acts by five different writers all utilizing introspection and absurdity to stretch the boundaries of storytelling. In these snippets of staged weirdness (all under 20 minutes long), a man journeys through time from Nazism to capitalism; a Mason jar-collecting woman finds secrets in the preserved jawbone of her dead mother; a couple of sexy French stewardesses attempt to prevent two Texas jumbo jets from going to war; a theater prop-girl finds herself voiceless in the company of an eclectic professor of catastrophes; and a modern-day Helen of Troy is forced to confront her betrayed lover. "It's a tasting plate of the avant-garde," says Artistic Director Rob Melrose. "It seems like a good way to give it a try." Melrose penned one of the plays himself; the other four are by Suzan-Lori Parks, Heiner Müller, Richard Foreman, and Mac Wellman. Catch this potpourri of sublime madness starting at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 20 at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $15-25; call 419-3584 or visit www.cuttingball.com.
-- Karen Macklin
A hybrid work that includes live music and hand-painted film, Falling makes us think of one of the most brilliant art performance pieces we've ever seen: Miranda July's The Swan Tool, which featured a horizontally split screen that allowed the artist to literally walk into a filmed scene. Falling and several other pieces at "No Hype -- A Film and Music Salon" take the idea of the live artist interacting with film even further, adding hand manipulation to the celluloid and music to the performances. We can't be positive "No Hype" will be brilliant, but it will definitely be inventive. Artists include Thad Povey, Laurie Amat, and Robbyn Leonard, starting at 9 p.m. at Varnish Fine Art, 77 Natoma (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 222-6131 or visit www.kingtone.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The thinking person's punk
"It's a time for waiting/ For the ba-ba-bomb!" So screech the boys of the Clorox Girls, a fast, fast band from Eugene, Ore., in a song called "Vietnam." Funny thing about the Redd Kross-meets-the Germs rock in this rowdy trio's under-a-minute songs: It's surprisingly smart. Certain thoughts are best expressed by 40-second blasts of pounding punk, and "Don't Take Your Life" is one of them. You don't need wordy lyrics to say that, and chances are you want to hit something and be amplified while you're yelling it. It just makes sense.
So go to this show for the love of proto-pop-punk, but stay for the realization that snarly does not equal stupid. The Weegs help open up for headliners the Urinals at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Kitsch in Sync
Take a cinematic vacation to the German countryside
Somewhere between the Andy Hardy series and The Sound of Music lies the Heimatfilm, a popular postwar German phenomenon on display in the "Heimat: German Heimatfilms of the 50s" series at the Goethe-Institut. These movies present a charming pastoral world into which a city dweller -- like the young hero of Roses Bloom on the Grave in the Meadow (screening Nov. 9) -- can drive his VW, fresh with triumphant plans for "modern two-room flats." Or where the Echo of the Mountains (Oct. 12) brings true love with a nature buff. Heimatfilms differed from their Hollywood equivalents in their deliberate pacing, rich in languid scenes of cows, barns, and forests, which must have provided balm for the souls of the shellshocked losers of World War II. The series continues Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. (with one Friday night screening Oct. 29) through Nov. 16 in the Goethe-Institut Auditorium, 530 Bush (at Grant), S.F. Admission is $5; call 263-8768 or visit www.goethe.de/sanfrancisco.
-- Gregg Rickman
Laurell K. Hamilton's "Vampire Hunter" mystery novels are a wet dream come true for fans left unsatisfied by Anne Rice's resolutely chaste bloodsuckers in the '80s. The ridiculously prolific Hamilton -- whose latest, Incubus Dreams, is the 12th book to star vamp slayer Anita Blake -- seizes upon the slightest excuse to usher her heroine into bed with any number of werewolves, shape-shifters, and other creatures of the night, and if those monsters happen to have a penchant for chains and bloodletting, all the better. Hear from the kinkmeister herself as she reads at 2 p.m. at Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia (at 19th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 824-8203 or visit www.borderlands-books.com.
-- Joyce Slaton