It might sound like a steamy sauna or a private home gone up in flames, but Hothouse is nothing of the sort. Created last year at the Magic Theatre, it's a series of world premieres by the country's most sizzling playwrights. This year, three new plays are presented over nine weekends. While no one can deny that producing fresh work is risky business, the Magic cuts down on the risk factor by selecting only the crème de la crème of the play-making biz.
The festival opens with The Rules of Charity by John Belluso, the country's leading dramatic voice for the disabled. A poetic script about love and hate, Rules revolves around a gay man in a wheelchair whose life is marked with cruelty and kindness within the harsh reality of poverty. The second in the series is The Black Eyed by Betty Shamieh, a San Francisco-born Palestinian-American whose contribution is a comedy about four Arab women from different time periods who contemplate their lives together before the "Gates of Martyrs." Finally, New York-based playwright Victor Lodato offers 3F, 4F, which finds an older couple -- set on sailing through the rest of life without much boat-rocking -- strangely awakened by two wild people who move in upstairs and a hot-cha lady across the street.
Can't decide which production to check out? Snag a festival pass and see them all. Hothouse starts previews at 8 p.m. on Saturday (and continues through June 19) at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Building D, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Single tickets are $20-38 and a pass is $72; call 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.
-- Karen Macklin
One Man's Trash
People call it "Art at the Dump," which is accurate, but not very glamorous. Attend the "Artist-in-Residence Program Art Show" and you'll get a better idea of the project's savvy combination of garbage and dreams. The setup features artists who get access to the S.F. Recycling & Disposal studio and literally tons of castoff materials for three months. "The sadness of the waste created by our society fused with this unbelievable opportunity to be creative in a truly awesome studio has left me reeling," explains Mike Farruggia, whose woodworks and furniture are exhibited this weekend along with Patrick Haywood's photographs. See both on Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. at S.F. Recycling & Disposal, 503 Tunnel (at Visitacion), S.F. Admission is free; call 330-1415 or visit www.norcalwaste.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
A Mordant Wit
He's Franken honest
He's got Monty Python's bent toward satirical social commentary, but Will Franken isn't as warm and fuzzy as the famous British comedy group. He's got a mean streak: He'll make just as much fun of a Native American poet as he will the president.
And while audiences sometimes bristle at such stuff, they keep coming back, because Franken is stone cold funny. In the past, his solo sketch-comedy shows have been absurdist, literate, and spiked with an actor's arsenal of accents and characterizations, so our hopes are high for his latest production, Good Luck With It. But the performer himself offers this warning on his Web site: "This show may receive a possible NC-17 rating from myself." Go forewarned, but go. The spectacle begins at 8 p.m. at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 826-5750 or visit www.willfranken.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The Art of Letters
Chapbooks and poetry
Some would think that to write poetry, all you need is a pen and paper. But the seven poets who make up the loose-knit 3-year-old group called Thicket Press need pica rulers and photopolymer plates. These artistically inclined wordsmiths make chapbooks with painstaking letterpress printing techniques; tonight they celebrate the unveiling of their latest creation, Box Wood & Shade, with a "Poetry Reading & Chapbook Release Party." And the poetry itself? Member Katherine Case says in a telephone interview that though the group's members have distinctly different styles, they're "bound by an influence of nature." Listen to poems like Case's "Earth Tea" and Virginia Westover's "Do Goddesses Have More Fun?" tonight from 7 to 9 at the San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro (at 16th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 565-0545 or visit www.sfcb.org.
-- Jane Tunks
See Jane Read
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Jane Fonda. We share the same first name, for one, and I grew up with a cat named Barbarella. The master of reinvention's real-life roles have included political activist, workout guru, and CEO's wife. Now 67, the one-time sex kitten looks damn good. In her latest book, My Life So Far, the two-time Academy Award winner reveals that her mother committed suicide and her first marriage (to film director Roger Vadim) was polyamorous. She also apologizes for her controversial actions in Vietnam. Hear Fonda read at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.
-- Jane Tunks