Flaming Sin: London's Grand Guignol. The most enticing aspect of Thrillpeddlers' latest Grand Guignol theater spectacle is the way it messes with our emotions. The first of the evening's entertainments, a recently rediscovered one-act by Noel Coward, is anything but a lightweight domestic farce. Set in the home of a wealthy, unhappily married woman, the narrative deals with her attempts to force her superficially dashing and upright husband to get in touch with his dark side. The work feels utterly contemporary for its unconventional views on marital relationships, drawn out by Eddie Muller's tight direction and nuanced performances from Alice Louise and Jonathan Ingbretson. Next on the bill is a macabre drama by Christopher Holland, adapted from a seminal French Grand Guignol play. Unraveling in a lunatic asylum, the story concerns an innocent young inmate's ghastly fate at the hands of three delusional old crones. With their lumpy bosoms and frazzled wigs, the titular hags are truly creepy. Powerful sound and lighting effects help to heighten the drama's slow-simmering build toward its inevitable gory conclusion. The emotional rollercoaster continues with a series of bite-sized plays and demented cabaret acts. Anyone left standing thereafter can stay on for a screening of Thrillpeddlers' fascinating Grand Guignol documentary, a special feature on the Tim Burton Sweeney Todd DVD. Through May 31 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Tickets are $20-$34.50; call 377-4202 or visit www.thrillpeddlers.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed April 23.
7 Sins. Halfway through James Judd's entertaining 75-minute solo show at Theatre Rhinoceros' studio, it dawns on you: Who the hell is this guy and why am I laughing so hard? While autobiographical one-person shows are nothing new, it's one thing to keep an audience's attention when you're someone famous like Carrie Fisher (whose run at the Berkeley Rep just ended), and quite another when you're a nobody. Judd, the nobody in question here, gets the audience to root for him as he recounts his life's not-so-serious struggles, from his ill-fated attempt in the fifth grade to be honored for giving the best book report (he unwisely chooses My Search for Patty Hearst) to his stint as a stand-up comedian working in sleazy Las Vegas hotels. Along the way, he always manages to say something during his misadventures that, in retrospect, he knows he probably shouldn't have. When, for instance, a man sitting next to him on the ski lift boasts that his woman is waiting for him at the hotel, Judd, who is gay, retorts that his boyfriend is at home doing his taxes. "I'm going to get a blow job and a refund," he gloats. 7 Sins began years ago as a group show; Judd later adapted it for himself and kept the title, which is somewhat misleading. The deadly sins play, at most, a marginal role in his personal stories. The second half of the show wanders some and could be tightened, but this is a minor gripe. In the end, you'll still leave with a smile on your face. Through May 17 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Tickets are $10; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org. (Will Harper) Reviewed April 16.
The Trojan Women. Ellen McLaughlin originally penned her haunting adaptation of Euripides' famous antiwar play about the horrors facing the women of Troy after the fall of their city to the Greeks in the mid-1990s in response to the plight of refugees displaced by the Balkan conflict. Aurora Theatre's production, which is based on McLaughlin's rewrite of her play for Fordham University in 2003, aims to be more universal in its appeal. Set in what looks like a timeless, placeless wasteland occupied by a cluster of massive rusty square metal pipes, the play's message about the ravages of war might equally apply to contemporary conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Tibet. McLaughlin's play distinguishes itself from other antiwar dramas through its penetrating exploration of the desperation of the victimized characters. In a bold departure from Euripides, the chorus of Trojan women beats up the hated Spartan queen Helen in a fit of impotent rage. Profoundly moving performances from Aurora's cast further make Euripides' tale resonate across the millennia You wish only that the production team wouldn't downplay the drama's contemporary local setting. Knowing that the events unfold not in some ancient mythical city but right here in San Francisco right now may make the cruelties of war seem all the more immediate. Through May 11 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $40-$42; call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org. (C.V.) Reviewed Apr. 30.
51 & Counting: A cabaret about working by Mary Ann Boyd. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through May 10. Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St. (at Folsom), 289-2000.
BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers. Sundays, 8 p.m. $8. www.improv.org. Fort Mason, Bldg. B (Marina & Buchanan), 474-6776.
Best of PlayGround 12: A Festival of New Writers & New Plays: A selection of the best work. Starting May 8. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 25. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.
The Better Half: The U.S. premiere of a lost Noel Coward play. Through May 21, 8 p.m. $20-$69. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 248-1900.
Book of Mark: A solo performance written and performed by Charles Pike. Starting May 8. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 17. The Garage, 975 Howard (at Sixth St.), 289-2000.
Breast of Sherry Glaser: The founder of Breasts Not Bombs sets out to save the world. Continues through June 14. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Bug: A cocktail waitress and an AWOL Gulf War veteran hide out together. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Through June 8. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
Coco: A musical based on the life of Coco Chanel by Alan Jay Lerner and Andre Previn. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through May 11. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.
The Cooking Show con Karimi & Castro: Chefs Mero Cocinero Karimi and Comrade Cocinero Castro dish up Iranian-Guatemalan-Filipino food and humor. May 10-18. SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan (at Eighth St.), 863-1414.
Curse of the Starving Class: A dark satire by Pulitzer Prize-winner and Academy Award nominee Sam Shepard. Through May 25. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.
Ladies of the Camellias: Lillian Groag's take on the theater crowd, presented by the Off Broadway West Theatre Company. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 31. Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), Suite 601, 989-0023.
Life Love Sex Death: Solo theatrical performance by Stevie Jay. Sat., May 10, 8 p.m. free. The Yoga Loft, 321 Divisadero.
The Little Prince: Each making his S.F. Opera debut, two young singers take turns in the title role in this Berkeley-staged version of the Saint-Exupery tale (via composer Rachel Portman and librettist Nicholas Wright). Through May 11, 3 p.m. $30-$60, all ages. www.sfopera.org. UC Berkeley, Zellerbach Hall (Bancroft and Telegraph), Berkeley, 510-642-9988.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Director Tim Supple's South Asian production features Indian and Sri Lankan actors, dancers, martial artists, and street acrobats. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 1. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Taylor), 551-2000.
Monday Night Marsh: Each week a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage at this regular event. Mondays. $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Murder Mystery Dinner: The dinner begins with detectives gathering to split $5 million in royalties from their latest book. Includes fruit and cheese reception and three-course dinner. Call for specific date. Saturdays, 6 p.m. $95. www.incentivestointrigue.com. Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter (at Octavia), 441-2828.
Narnia: The famous tale is enhanced with music, aerial dance, and light spinning. Through May 10. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Octopus: Four men, one night. A drama by Steve Yockey, coproduced by the Magic Theater and Encore Theatre Company. Starting May 10. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 8. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822.
The Odd Couple: Oscar and Felix, together again. Starting May 9. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through June 7. The Custom Stage, 965 Mission St. (at Sixth St.), 838-3006.
Point Break LIVE!: Stage adaptation of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze blockbuster. Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 & 10 p.m. Continues through June 21. $25. www.pointbreaklive.com. Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at 25th St.), 285-9366.
Talk Show Live SF: Second Monday of every month, 8 p.m. $15. www.talkshowsf.com. The Purple Onion, 140 Columbus (at Pacific), 217-8400.
Theater: The Musical: The Un-Scripted Theater Company improvises a full-length musical. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through May 31. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
Uncle Vanya: Anton Chekhov's play, produced by the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 17. Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman), Berkeley, 510-704-8210.
W. Kamau Bell Curve: The comedian is back for more in his solo show. Starting May 8. Thursdays. Continues through June 12. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-1226.
Waiting for Godzilla: Through May 11, 8 p.m. $10. Theatre of Yugen, 2840 Mariposa (at Alabama), 621-7978.