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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Jun 16 2010
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All My Sons. Arthur Miller's 1947 breakthrough play was a sort of proto–Law and Order episode. It was ripped from the headlines and elaborated into an existentially suspenseful and socially critical whodunit, complete with riveting last-act confession, subsequent emotional wallop, and sudden final curtain. But as its central figure insists, presumably on the playwright's behalf, "I want ya to see it human. Human! Ya know?" Actors Theatre's production makes good strides toward that end. The action takes place over the course of an August day in a Midwestern backyard. It involves an industrialist (Randy Hurst) alleged to have knowingly supplied defective engine parts to American planes in World War II, with his pilot son long missing and presumed killed; his wife (director Joyce Henderson), deep in denial; and their other son (Nicholas Russell), more comfortable inheriting his brother's fiancée (Nahry Tak) than dad's prosperous business. That the play looks so good for its age is a credit to its author and to actors who inflect their characters with just enough contemporary-seeming intangibles. With heaps of humanity provided by Henderson's wounded matriarch and Russell's disheartened scion especially, it's a lived-in and long-lasting parable of greed, guilt, and the ceaseless burdens of filial responsibility. Through June 25 at Actors Theatre, 855 Bush (at Mason), S.F. $10-$35; 296-9179 or www.actorstheatresf.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 9.

Giant Bones. By rights, the premiere run of Giant Bones is where everything could go wrong. Its structure is a play-within-a-play-within-a-play. It's a fantasy, filled with unfamiliar elements and species. It has a large cast whose characters are difficult to keep track of (one is frequently referred to as Blond Ingénue, another as Brown Ingénue), with each actor playing multiple parts. Intimidated? Better to be intrigued: It all works. Giant Bones is that rare play that does everything perfectly. The plot, a collection of fables woven into the story of how a theater troupe was banished from a city, is easy to follow. The script, based on short stories by Peter S. Beagle, is engaging, funny, and profound (in that order), and the actors have great fun chewing the scenery in the first act and turning in deft and nuanced performances in the second. The set is minimal but evocative; the sound cues are superb. Okay, the theater was too warm — that didn't go right — but everything else makes for a high-energy, thought-provoking show. I'd suggest keeping your programs so you can say you were there, but audience members get a free, limited-edition Beagle book as a memento. See? Giant Bones just nails it. Through June 19 at Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Mason), S.F. $20-$30; 650-728-8098 or Greeks feels more like a B-side to the truly thrilling Pearls, but together they revive a sexy history and tradition that feels truly San Francisco. It's freakishly fun. Through June 27 at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F. $30-$69; 800-838-3006 or www.thrillpeddlers.com. (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed May 5.

In the Wake. As she did with her award-winning play, Well, the profoundly talented playwright Lisa Kron continues her exploration of the blind spots of the middle class. With In the Wake, she presents Ellen (the superb Heidi Schreck), a thirtysomething white, well-spoken liberal in a bubble of her own demographic — like many folks in the Bay Area. Set during the disputed Bush/Gore election of 2000 and through the start of the Iraq war — an "incomprehensible time," in Ellen's view — we meet a woman in intellectual and emotional crisis as chinks in her armor start to appear. She can see everyone else's weaknesses, but struggles to spot her own flaws. Kron writes all sides thoroughly and brilliantly; she has no political agenda except perhaps to show that interconnectedness is the key to understanding our experience. This play is a powerful statement that we must question everything and everyone — including ourselves. Through June 27 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $13.50-$71; 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. (N.E.) Reviewed May 26.

Abigail: Salem Witch Trials – The Rock Opera: Original songs. Thursdays, 9 p.m. Continues through Sept. 23, $10. Temple, 540 Howard (at First St.), 978-9942, www.templesf.com.

Androcles and the Lion: Presented by San Francisco Free Civic Theatre. June 18-20. Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood (at 18th St.), 831-6810, www.sfgov.org.

Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?: Josh Kornbluth's comedy. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 20. The Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), 292-1233, www.tjt-sf.com.

Big City Improv: Actors take audience suggestions and create comedy from nothing. Fridays, 10 p.m., $15-$20, www.bigcityimprov.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

Boys Will Be Boys: Presented by New Conservatory Theatre Center. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

"City Solo": Through June 20, 7 p.m., $15-$20. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513, www.cafearts.com/offmarket.

Closer: Drama by Patrick Marber. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 26. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433, www.stagewerx.org.

The Dynamite Show: The latest by Fou Fou Ha! Starting June 17, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 26. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657, www.brava.org.

The Fantasticks: Presented by SF Playhouse. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Sept. 4. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org.

Forever Never Comes: Presented by Crowded Fire. Through June 26. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747, www.boxcartheatre.org.

Glory Glory: Presented by Front Line Theatre Company. Starting June 18, Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through June 27. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org.

Gutenberg! The Musical!: Presented by Beards Beards Beards: A Theatre Company. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through June 26. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

It's That Easy!: Thu., June 17, 7:30 p.m., $12-$20, www.queerculturalcenter.org. San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market (at Octavia), 865-5555, www.sfcenter.org.

KML Goes Undercover: The latest by Killing My Lobster. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 27. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320, www.zeum.org.

Love, Chaos, and Couture: All Dressed Up with Someplace to Go: The latest by Teatro ZinZanni, starring Liliane Montevecchi and Frank Ferrante. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 15, $117-$145, 438-2668, www.zinzanni.org. Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery).

Marga Gomez Is Proud and Bothered: Comedy. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 26. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Monday Night Marsh: On select Mondays a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage at this regular event that's hosted local celebs like Josh Kornbluth and Marga Gomez in the past; see www.themarsh.org for a lineup of future shows. Mondays, $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750, www.themarsh.org.

The New Century: A comedy by Paul Rudnick. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Continues through July 11. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

Obscura: Illusionist Christian Cagigal's new show. Starting June 17, Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 14. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847, www.sffringe.org.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Through Aug. 1, $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202, www.thrillpeddlers.com.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Fridays, Saturdays, $23-$29, www.shoppingthemusical.com. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100, www.sheltontheater.com.

ShortLived: Audience-judged playwriting competition. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through June 26. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513, www.cafearts.com/offmarket.

SummHER Lovin': Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 28, $20, www.pianofight.com. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513, www.cafearts.com/offmarket.

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding: Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, 7 p.m., $88.50-$115.50, www.tonyandtinasanfrancisco.com. Swiss Louis Restaurant at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero), 421-2913, www.swisslouis.com.

Tosca Project: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through June 27. American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org.

About The Authors

Nathaniel Eaton

Jonathan Kiefer

Bio:
SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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