In theater, unspeakable violence is usually evoked via feverish clutching, with the audience left to imagine the gory details. But when your play concerns the reanimation of cadavers and their subsequent death spree, restraint won't do. Overt, gratuitous, and exploitative acts of carnage -- including wildly inappropriate contact with the audience -- form the more honest course, ably taken by Re-Animator of the Dead: The Tale of Herbert West. Expect blood by the quart, spilling over the stage and washing over the crowd. Anticipate seeing a head severed and limbs scattered. Assume that the fourth wall will be ignored, with players emerging to die in spectators' laps. In a thoughtful gesture, though, audience members will receive plastic sheets to whimper beneath.
Based on both H.P. Lovecraft's short story and the classic films based upon it, Re-Animator's plot features our favorite medical student performing unholy work in the morgue of Miskatonic University. It's a natural fit for the Primitive Screwheads theater troupe, which previously brought us the similarly slippery Evil Dead: Live. Re-Animator opens at 8 p.m. on Thursday (and continues through Oct. 30) at the Off-Market Theater, Stage 250, 965 Mission (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is $22-24; call 896-6477 or visit www.primitivescrewheads.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Phaedra goes corporate
Now that Demi and Ashton have set celebrity precedent, robbing the cradle isn't as taboo as it was back in the day. But still, feasting on your 21-year-old stepson while you're married to his dad does not exactly fall into the realm of acting in good faith. Playwright Matthew Maguire's Phaedra, set in present-day corporate America, is a provocative tale that riffs on the classic Greek myth about a mortal woman who falls in love with her hubby's kid as a result of a spell cast by an unhappy goddess. The myth has various endings, but none skimps on tragedy. See how Maguire caps this erotic story of semi-incestuous obsession as Phaedra previews at 8 p.m. on Thursday (and continues through Nov. 13) at the Last Planet Theatre, 351 Turk (at Hyde), S.F. Admission is $10-18; call 440-3505 or visit www.lastplanettheatre.com.
-- Karen Macklin
Oh My Omar
Jazz of the world
The embrace jazz has gotten from the hip hop world keeps it fresh, but its traditions keep it grounded and its challenging technical aspects keep it alluring to virtuoso players. The Omar Sosa Quartet is an internationally renowned example of all of the above, but the Cuban-born, Oakland-residing bandleader adds his own wide-ranging musical interests from around the globe: Afro-Caribbean rhythms, Latin grooves, French chanson, and more. Unsurprisingly, Sosa's sound reminds some listeners of smooth Brazilian superstars like Jobim and Gilberto. Tonight Sosa is joined onstage by the Dafnis Prieto Quintet, starting at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $24-36; call 885-0750 or visit www.sfjazz.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
With a 12-inch remixed by Le Tigre and a new drummer, Hannah Blilie, the Gossip maintains its stranglehold on what's best about the soul-punk scene in the great Northwest. Erase Errata and We Are Wolves open at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $12; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser