Theatre of Yugen
Sept. 8-19 at Theatre of Yugen, 2840 Mariposa (at Alabama), S.F. $15; 621-0507 or www.theatreofyugen.org.
The last thing the world needs is yet another interpretation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, but I'd be willing to watch Theatre of Yugen's interpretation of just about anything. Featuring only six actors and developed in conjunction with the 11th Hour Ensemble, Alice promises to be a truly fresh take on an overfamiliar story — combining Japanese Noh and Kyogen traditions with ballet and classic rock to evoke the surreal lunacy at the heart of Carroll's work.
San Francisco Fringe Festival
Sept. 8-19, various S.F. locations. $7-$10; 931-1094 or www.sffringe.org.
If you're looking for a safe bet, look elsewhere. The San Francisco Fringe Festival is unjuried, meaning that the plays aren't chosen by a panel. Instead, they're chosen by lottery, so the 40 shows at this year's festival are bound to be a mix of unexpected delights and total dreck. But for those who don't mind a little treasure hunt, the Fringe Festival is a fantastic way to make discoveries — and at only $10 per show, you can't go too wrong. This year, the buzz-heavy shows include Green Tea Party (the newest showcase for Los Angeles sketch-comedy troupe OPM) and Phone Whore (Cameryn Moore's one-woman show about phone sex).
The Brother/Sister Plays
A.C.T., Magic Theatre, and Marin Theatre Company
Various dates and locations
This fall, the Bay Area's single biggest theatrical event is actually three events in one. A trio of companies will stage the West Coast premiere of The Brother/Sister Plays, a trilogy by the acclaimed playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. Part one, In the Red and Brown Water, will play at Marin Theatre Company from Sept. 9 to Oct. 3; part two, The Brothers Size, is at Magic Theatre from Sept. 9 to Oct. 17; and part three, Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet, is at A.C.T. from Oct. 29 to Nov. 21. The plays can be seen in any order.
Sept. 18-Oct. 9 at Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), S.F. $8-$30; 255-7846 or www.crowdedfire.org.
It's always possible to suffer from an excess of good taste. That shouldn't be a problem at Boxcar Playhouse this fall. Crowded Fire offers The Secretaries, a Grand Guignol confection by the New York collective known as the Five Lesbian Brothers. Set in the town of Big Bone, Ore., the play concerns a secretarial pool at Cooney Lumber Mill, where the girls have developed a taste for the misapplication of chainsaws. Let's face it: Either you want to see that or you don't.
Brava! for Women in the Arts
Sept. 25-Oct. 16 at Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), S.F. $15-$35; 641-7657 or www.brava.org.
The most modern of ancient Greeks, Euripides always turned a skeptical eye on the traditions and superstitions that frequently coalesce into myth. His antipathy toward the gods was such that he wrote two plays about Iphigenia, sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, to appease the goddess Artemis. Both plays are devastating when done well. That's why I'm eager to see the U.S. premiere of Iph ..., a new adaptation of Iphigenia at Aulis, produced at Brava in collaboration with the African-American Shakespeare Company.
The Sunset Limited
Sept. 28-Nov. 6 at SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Prices TBA; 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org.
You can count on SF Playhouse for a smart lineup of new or little-known plays, and this fall will be no exception. But I'm especially looking forward to the West Coast premiere of The Sunset Limited, Cormac McCarthy's "novel in dramatic form" about a suicidal atheist who owes his life to an evangelical ex-convict. Later in the season, Coraline, the musical adaptation of Neil Gaiman's surreal fairy tale, will make its West Coast premiere from Nov. 16 to Jan. 15 — perfect for audiences in need of skewed entertainment during the holidays.
Oct. 6-Nov. 7 at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at Martin Luther King), Berkeley. $17-$30; 510-841-6500 or www.shotgunplayers.org.
When Mary Stuart — better known to the world as Mary, Queen of Scots — knelt before the chopping block in 1587, the ax reportedly missed her neck and struck the back of her head. That wasn't even the most unpleasant part of her story. You can get all the details in Shotgun's Mary Stuart, a new adaptation of Friedrich Schiller's 1800 tragedy. The show may not be quite as grisly as your standard Halloween fare, but it's as much a horror story as you're likely to see on stage this season.
The Great Game: Afghanistan
Oct. 22-Nov. 7 at the Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $29-$73; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org.
No Bay Area theatre can claim to be more nationally significant than Berkeley Rep — the company launches Broadway-bound shows almost every season. This fall, I'm especially excited about the West Coast premiere of The Great Game: Afghanistan, a cycle of short plays by a dozen playwrights. Presented in three parts (viewable separately or in a single sitting), the play explores the history and culture of Afghanistan over the course of 150 years.
Cutting Ball Theater
Nov. 5-28 at EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), S.F. $15-$50; 419-3584 or www.cuttingball.com.
In Cutting Ball's fall opener, director Rob Melrose reimagines Shakespeare's final romance — in many ways the Bard's most modern and elusive work — as a three-person chamber piece. All of Shakespeare's plays have endured a slew of gimmicky interpretations, but The Tempest, with its dreamlike setting and structure, is probably most open to radical reinvention. With Melrose taking a crack at it, you can bet that Cutting Ball's version will be worth a look.