7 Sins. Halfway through James Judd's entertaining 75-minute solo show, 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 June 21 at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 931-1094 or visit www.theatrebayarea.org. (Will Harper) Reviewed April 16.
Figaro. People are so seduced by Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro that they tend to overlook the opera's anarchic roots. Historians today widely consider the 18th-century French dramatist Beaumarchais' stage play of the same title to have performed a major role in instigating the French Revolution. It is the revolutionary zeal at the heart of Beaumarchais and Mozart's works that audacious Minneapolis-based theater company Theatre de la Jeune Lune aims to restore and explore in its adaptation of the story. Director Dominique Serrand's version takes place nearly 20 years after the events depicted in Marriage, as the decrepit, philandering Count Almaviva (Serrand) thinks wistfully back to the good old days of sexual intrigue and power in the company of his long-suffering servant Figaro (Steven Epp). The music-infused production examines what it's like to live among the embers of a once-blazing revolutionary pyre through a mixture of Mozartian melody, Beaumarchaisian bombast, and Jeune Lunian lunacy. The physically adventurous and linguistically ingenious double-act of Serrand and Epp reveals thoughtful parallels between the staleness of post-revolutionary France and the widespread feeling of sluggish impotence that has become a hallmark of our own times. But being subjected to lengthy flashback sequences involving renditions of arias from Mozart's opera by an uneven cast dampens the fire. Through June 8 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $16.50-$69; call 510-647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.(Chloe Veltman) Reviewed May 7.
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. 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. (C.V.) Reviewed April 23.
The Ladies of the Camellias. The name of Sarah Bernhardt might not mean much to most theatergoers — at least, not beyond a vague awareness that she was once considered the world's greatest actress. The name Eleonora Duse probably means even less; think of her as Bernhardt's Italian foil. Lillian Groag's 1997 comedy The Ladies of the Camellias considers what might have transpired during the first meeting of these two theatrical legends in 1897 Paris, when they each performed the title role in dueling productions of La Dame aux camélias. Groag spins her premise into a wildly speculative farce, culminating in the entrance of a bomb-wielding Russian anarchist (Vlad Sayenko) who represents, somewhat heavy-handedly, the dawn of the age of Chekhov and Stanislavski. Joyce Henderson directs and stars as Duse in this Off Broadway West production; she's the only member of the ensemble who gives a completely convincing performance. Unfortunately, most of the other actors ensure that the play's zaniness operates at a frustratingly low velocity, especially during the sodden first act. Through May 31 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary), S.F. Tickets are $25-$30; call 510-835-4205 or visit www.offbroadwaywest.org. (Christopher Jensen) Reviewed May 14.
A Midsummer Night's Dream. Developed over two years in India, British director Tim Supple's version of Shakespeare's comedy of love and bewitchment not only features an all-Asian cast, but also disposes of about 50 percent of Shakespeare's language. Over the course of the show, the actors intersperse bits of the original English verse with lines translated into Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Sinhalese, Malayalam, Marathi, and Sanskrit. At one level, being forced to abandon all hope of understanding what's being said onstage is liberating. Without language, our responses to the action are utterly visceral. We start to hear the sounds coming out of the actors' mouths not as words but as music, and every string, wind, or percussion note played by the three company musicians seems rich and strange. Sumant Jayakrishnan's massive bamboo climbing frame backdrop and riotously hued Asian-themed costumes and Zuleikha Chaudhari's passionate lights play as significant a role in the action as the performers' intense facial expressions and extreme physicality: We rely on the interplay of all these elements to draw meaning from the play. When Archana Ramaswamy's Titania chases PR Jijoy's Oberon down the wooden rungs of the set, viciously pulling his hair, cries of "Ouch!" ricochet around the audience. And when Joy Fernandes' Bottom ambles onstage with raffia donkey ears and what looks like a giant acorn squash attached to the front of his pants, we hoot with laughter. Yet at another level, feeling linguistically challenged conveys the frustration Shakespeare's Athenian lovers experience at the mercy of their uncontrollable passions. Through June 1 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Tickets are $35-$80; call 512-7770 or visit www.shnsf.com. (C.V.) Reviewed May. 14.
ShortLived. PianoFight productions encourages audience members to brown-bag their own booze; the crew even throws a couple of Budweisers and miniature whiskey bottles into the crowd right before the lights go down. But you don't have to be drunk, or even buzzed, to have a rip-roaring good time. ShortLived is a three-month competition of original short plays where the audience votes which ones make it to the next round. The night I attended, five of the eight plays (each under 10 minutes) were very funny and the other three quite gripping. Most were sustained short bursts of bizarre hilarity, such as a wedding involving ninja costumes and antidepressants, and a man trying unsuccessfully to use a coupon at a supermarket. One, called The Stand In, involved a woman who had actually answered a Craigslist ad to come in unrehearsed and act opposite a sock puppet. Artistic directors Rob Ready and Dan Williams (both stars in their own right) lead an acting company that is irreverent, skilled, and clearly loves to have a good time. Obviously the content changes, but the show I saw was better than most Saturday Night Live editions. Through June 28 at Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), S.F. Tickets are $15-$20; call 820-1656 or visit www.pianofight.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed May 21.
'Tis Pity She's a Whore. John Ford's 17th-century tragedy takes an exuberant interest in taboo and revenge. It isn't a prim play. The plot concerns a coquettish maiden who gets knocked up by her amorous brother; at show's end, the dead pretty much outnumber the living, and somebody's heart has been skewered on a dagger. It would be a mistake, however, to invest any of this with high seriousness — the play is always aware that its lavish bloodletting borders on slapstick. What a relief, then, to find that Impact Theatre's production is just as cheerfully sleazy as its source material. Under the freewheeling direction of Melissa Hillman, this is not a particularly polished show. Still, the fights are scrappy, the deaths are messy, and the cast members are young, attractive, and eager to rip off each other's clothes. The first act is stronger than the second, in part because Jai Sahai, as Bergetto, dies extravagantly just before intermission. This guy is such a font of rapid-fire comic invention that the world will be a slightly darker place if he doesn't achieve some form of major stardom. 'Tis Pity is good filthy fun, but if you sit in the front row, beware: Experience dictates that you might just get blood splattered on your shoes. Through June 7 at Impact Theatre, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$15; call 510-464-4468 or visit www.impacttheatre.com. (Christopher Jensen) Reviewed May 21.
The BrEaST of Sherry Glaser: The founder of Breasts Not Bombs sets out to save the world. Through June 14. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Buried Child: Sam Shepard's drama about a Midwestern family. Through June 12. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.
Don Pasquale: A Pocket Opera production of Gaetano Donizetti's work. Sat., May 31, 1 p.m.; Sun., June 1, 1 p.m. Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave. (near Clement), 863-3330.
It's Murder Mary: Murder mystery set in a Russian River resort. Through June 28. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.
Keep Tightly Closed in a Cool Dry Place: A drama in a jail cell, written by Megan Terry. Through June 1. Mama Calizo's Voice Factory, 1519 Mission (at Van Ness), 690-9410.
Long Island Iced Latina: A work-in-progress version of Marga Gomez' one-woman show. Wed., May 28, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 31, 5 & 8 p.m. $15-$35, 17+. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
Magic Powers and Wrecked Flowers: Six original plays written by fifth graders from Starr King Elementary School. Fri., May 30, 11 a.m. free-$10. de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at JFK), 863-3330.
Men in Uniform: Examines the men under the attire. Through July 6. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.
Octopus: Four men, one night. A drama by Steve Yockey, co-produced by the Magic Theater and Encore Theatre Company. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 8. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, 441-8822.
The Odd Couple: Oscar and Felix, together again. 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.
Squeeze Box: Ann Randolph's solo show about her minimum-wage life. Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through June 29. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.