Major-league playwright Rebecca Gilman, who has enjoyed far more success in this city than should probably be allowed, is back with another American premiere at her national theatrical home, the Magic. Known for using straight realism to address popular cultural issues -- latent racism (Spinning Into Butter), yuppie stalking (Boy Gets Girl), fertility hell (The American in Me) -- Gilman follows suit with her current play, which speaks to the concept of artistic integrity within the world of commercial success.
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is about a hotshot New York visual artist who's in for a real shock when her latest exhibit bombs. Hit hard by an unexpected sense of failure, Dana falls into a slump. Her ego and personal life are headed straight for the gutter -- until she scores a new muse in the form of a badass baseball player. Directed by Amy Glazer, a frequent collaborator of Gilman's, Baseball debuts tonight at 8 (and continues through Feb. 20) at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Tickets are $20-50; call 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Bad Old Days
Drama takes notes from underground
Anyone over 45 is old enough to remember -- and anyone younger really should find out -- what life was like before abortion was legal. A good way to learn is to see Jane: Abortion and the Underground, a play by Paula Kamen that Erin Kiernon of Planned Parenthood told us is "a look at some courageous women who had been part of other movements at the time, who came from the anti-war movement or the civil rights movement, and they just realized how important reproductive rights were. So they came together to provide what can be such an easy, safe procedure, and [the play is about] how hard and horrible it was because of the repressive laws of the time." Tonight's benefit performance is followed by a panel discussion about the current state of legal abortion with Dian Harrison, Jennifer Parker, Carol Bean, and Brynne Craig. The play begins at 8 at the Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St. (at York), S.F. Admission is $10-30; call 647-2822 or visit www.ppgg.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Dazzling feats from China
Cinematic special effects are sooo tired; haven't we seen enough of realistic monsters, lifelike blood, and "authentic" gore? But watching live acrobats -- wire walkers, contortionists, balancers on tilted chairs -- still draws gasps of wonder. Though acrobatics was born millennia ago in China, it was for centuries considered a scummy street art. These days, however, viewers appreciate troupes for what they bring to the stage: sheer scintillating eye candy. See the Peking Acrobats spin plates, teeter on unicycles, and juggle with their feet as they swing into action at 8 p.m. on Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph on the UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $22-42; call (510) 642-9988 or visit www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
-- Joyce Slaton
Hagen the Covers
Born a gifted musician in East Germany during its not-so-halcyon communist days, Nina Hagen unsurprisingly connected with a rebellious sound. But Hagen isn't your predictable punk pixie. She's also produced Indian-inspired music (on Om Namah Shivay) and show tunes (on Big Band Explosion). She hits the stage at 8 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $18-20; call 626-1409 or visit www.dnalounge.com.
-- Brock Keeling