Critical Condition Sickness creeps through Denis Johnson's story collection Jesus' Son like a stealthy burglar, stripping characters of their wits and well-being. Narrated by a man whose life has been wracked by chemical dependencies, the stories unfold in a druggy underworld populated by addicts and thieves. In their second collaboration, theater companies Campo Santo and Word for Word stage two of the stories in Jesus' Son: Emergency and Dundun, using the Word for Word method, which leaves the author's language intact. Morbid comedy propels “Dundun,” in which a dead man rots on a couch as his friends get high, watch, and wait for someone to do something. Shades of Drugstore Cowboy emerge in “Emergency,” meanwhile, as two hospital night-shift workers ditch strange patients and even stranger doctors and hit the road, fueled by pharmaceuticals they've liberated from the infirmary stash. The show previews at 8 p.m. and runs through Feb. 28; Johnson, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, reads at a benefit performance Feb. 22 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $9-25; call 626-3311.
Let There Be Light Glenn McKay is supposed to be the guy who invented the light show, and if he didn't, he was still the guy who secured its blessing from the establishment. Drawn like a moth to a flame by the light projections of Ken Kesey's “acid tests,” McKay began experimenting with biological stains and aniline dyes in the '60s, creating light performances that corresponded with amplified music of the times. In 1968, the Whitney Museum brought the light show above ground, showcasing the groovy creations of McKay's new company Head Lights at a “multisensory evening,” which featured live music from Jefferson Airplane and classical pianist Raymond Lewenthall. “Glenn McKay: Altered States — Light Projections 1966-1996” is a series of four installations from each decade, projected onto a 20-by-16-foot screen. The earliest work is comprised of over 100 parts, including hand-painted slides, color wheels, and overhead projections, set to '60s rock. In the '70s, McKay folded in images of icons and newsmakers like Nixon, followed by geometric patterns and an international musical kaleidoscope in the '80s. The show opens at 11 a.m. (and runs through April 27) at the SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$8; call 357-4000.
My Bloody Valentine Finally, a show that knows what makes relationships tick: neuroses! The newly formed Heroes Theater Company makes its debut with The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, a smart collection of scenes that feels the love in Christopher Durang's manic, analytic comedy Beyond Therapy and Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, in which a woman who comes of age in the counterculture wrangles with her commitment-phobic boyfriend. Quel romantique, as they say. Also on the bill: David Ives' The Sure Thing, a road movie with a guaranteed shag at the end, and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, John Patrick Stanley's drama about a bickering couple (Teatro Shalom is currently staging the full-length version at Noh Space). The 14-member company plans to stage four shows a year after this one, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 14) in an old Victorian attic at 1347 McAllister (at Steiner), Suite C, S.F. Admission is free; call 921-3360 to reserve seats. For a full schedule of Valentine's Day events, see next week's issue.
Blue Notes The Heart Is a Live Thing was choreographer Anne Bluethenthal's first attempt at open-heart surgery: using layers of narrative, distilled movement, and Marc Ream's primal score, she took apart and examined the physical and emotional parts of the human heart. Bluethenthal will be patching pieces of this 2-year-old piece together again for a new concert, “Yucatan Blue and Other Dances,” but it may look different since Bluethenthal had her own heart broken. She's debuting the title piece, which begins as a solo and blooms into an ensemble piece, in memory of her friend Marcy Lee Olmsted, a physician who recently died from breast cancer (in his eulogy, Olmsted's husband described her eyes as “Yucatan blue”). The show, which also includes Bluethenthal's duet with dancer Mercy Sidbury, begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 6 p.m.) at Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $13-15 and partial proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Fund; call 522-8793.
Film Noir Growing and caring for dreadlocks is just one part of the education in Nicole Atkinson's 30-minute documentary Lockin' Up. The local indie videomaker digs into history and mines cultures besides her own, collecting childhood anecdotes about “bad hair,” unwanted reactions to dreaded hair from family and strangers alike, and the occasional helpful hint (Rastafarians: wash hair with sea water). The film makes its broadcast debut this month (Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.) during KQED's Black History Month programming. California gets additional play in the history doc California's Gold (Feb. 20, 3:30 p.m.), although the schedule is international in scope, with films about a South African dance troupe and a railway line through Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The documentaries Great Day in Harlem (Feb. 25, 10 p.m.), James Baldwin: The Price of a Ticket (Feb. 28, 11 p.m.), and Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice (Feb. 24, 11 p.m.) are among several works spotlighting artists and entertainers. The series begins at 9 p.m. tonight with the screening of Africans in America/The Terrible Transformation on KQED Channel 9. Call 864-2000 for a full schedule of Black History Month programs. For more Black History Month events, see Calendar on Page 32.
Color and Form Like Keith Haring, painter Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist and became a fixture on New York's East Village art scene by the mid-'80s. And like Haring, Basquiat died young; a heroin overdose at age 27 left artists, viewers, and critics squabbling over his life and legacy. Fellow artist Julian Schnabel painted his own vivid portrait of that life in his film Basquiat, detailing the artist's living-in-a-cardboard-box-in-Tompkins-Square-Park period, the playful sparring with friend Andy Warhol (a bewigged David Bowie), the onset of fame, and the racist reception he is said to have gotten from art dealers and the media. What the film didn't do is give viewers a close-up of the painter's work, which, like Haring's, has rarely been shown on the West Coast, and is known for its repeated references to themes that haunted its maker, money and death among them. When the SFMOMA opened a Haring retrospective last spring, gallery owner and New York transplant Marcel Sitcoske put out her Harings as well — now she's staged the first solo show of Basquiat's paintings and drawings to be seen in San Francisco. The exhibit opens at 10 a.m. at the Marcel Sitcoske Gallery, 251 Post (at Grant), Suite 200, S.F. Admission is free; call 434-4804.
Puppy-Dog Tales Surreal (and a little stinky) best describes the atmosphere at the annual Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, where a row of wriggly beagles gives way, with the sudden turn of a corner, to a row of gentle, pony-sized Irish wolfhounds, leaving the disoriented visitor feeling like Alice in Dogland. Over 2,000 canines will be shown, representing 135 breeds, from garden-variety retrievers (284 entries) to sleek, cinnamon-hued Vizslas (36 entries) to lesser-known otter hounds and Canaan dogs (2 entries each, shown for the first time). In the main arena, pooches grouped by class (working, hound, etc.) will be poked, prodded, and run around a ring, and ultimately judged according to the highest standards of their type. Between rounds of judging and events like the Topnotch Dog Agility Team competitions, tired pups loll in their stalls, where strangers can skritch their ears and talk dog with their owners. The show opens at 9 a.m. (also Sunday) at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, Daly City. Admission is $5-10; call 469-6000.
And All That Jazz French Quarter tourists line up around the block nightly to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in its drafty old home, although they could find any number of Dixieland bands in the more comfortable pubs and hotels nearby. What's the attraction? Authenticity, some say: The hall was built in New Orleans in 1750 and served as a tavern before dockworkers and other local folks formed the band and took over the hall as a place to blow their horns after they finished their day jobs. Musical variety is part of the appeal, too: The PHJB plays buoyant tunes associated with Dixieland, like “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but technically, they don't play Dixieland, they play New Orleans jazz, which leaves more room for improvisation. It's also said the band picks its opening and closing songs before a show but decides what to play in the middle after sizing up its audience. What will you inspire? The concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Marin Center, Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. Admission is $18-24; call 472-3500.
Don't Mess With Molly Texas liberals are about as common as San Francisco Republicans, but they do exist, as columnist Molly Ivins will tell you. She herself is a self-described “dripping-fangs liberal,” and her frank writing style — marked by colorful Texan vernacular, dry wit, and a built-in drawl — has managed to alienate both her fellow Texans and her fellow Americans alike: Texas A&M banned her from campus, and the Minneapolis police force gave her name to its mascot pig. Still, people read Ivins, because her nationally syndicated political column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram continues to generate steamed replies, and literary magazines like the Atlantic Monthly still print her freelance pieces. Ivins isn't all politics, of course, but in her home state, watching the process is as much a pastime as target practice, and in books like You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You, she covers a lot of it, from the demise of Barbara Jordan to former Gov. Anne Richards' career to Clinton's welfare reform policy, for which she saves her tartest retort. The Weekly's other favorite columnist, Jon Carroll, interviews Ivins onstage at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
Maya, Oh My Joke all you want, but it's only a matter of time before someone pays poet Maya Angelou to read the phone book aloud. She's already applied her rich cadences to presidential inaugurations and United Negro College Fund commercials, leaving weepy, grateful viewers in her wake. It won't be the phone book this time, but a benefit where she'll muse aloud on matters spiritual, personal, and otherwise, much as she's done in her autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the essay collection Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now. The adage “write what you know” has served her well, since Angelou knows plenty from her various stints as writer, actor, professor, civil rights activist, and, now, director of Down in the Delta. Angelou speaks at 7:30 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium, 1100 California (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $25-150 and proceeds benefit Alumnae Resources and the Professional BusinessWomen of California; call (650) 548-2424.