How the Other Half Loves. Alan Ayckbourn's acidic, class-conscious 1969 comedy explores the collateral damage of an affair, leavening bitterness with laughter. The posh wife (Sylvia Kratins) of an absentminded executive (Jeff Garrett) carries on a tryst with his boorish employee (James Darbyshire), whose wary spouse (Corinne Proctor) has just begun wising up. When a mincing co-worker (Adam Simpson) and his own meek wife (Jocelyn Stringer) become the adulterers' unwitting alibi, what follows is a criss-crossing escalation of misunderstanding and mistrust, and standard-issue English dithering graduates to shouting and even some physical combat. In Off Broadway West's take, director Richard Harder has some lethargic introductory pacing to overcome, but eventually finds a solid balance between business and character. His cast, although unevenly skilled, shows a strong bond of common purpose. Yes, the social and sexual codes seem dated, but there is timeless satisfaction to be had from the precise gearwork of Ayckbourn's script — made manifest as much in the cast's collective timing as in Bert van Aalsburg's ambidextrous set, wherein two tables lock together as one for separate but simultaneous dinner parties. Through July 31 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Post), S.F. $35; 800-838-3006 or www.offbroadwaywest.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed July 14.
Shopping! The Musical. Some theater types want to be Hamlet; others want to be Liza Minnelli. The smiling, hardworking performers in this musical revue definitely fall into the latter category. Lyricist-composer Morris Bobrow uses his infectious, irreverent humor to great effect as he pays homage to the highs and lows of our compellingly crass commercial culture. He uses the small, cramped theater in a straightforward manner — four center-stage stools and an amusing backdrop provide the set. The accomplished accompanist Ben Keim keeps things lively on one side of the stage behind an upright piano. The actors lead us through songs that bring to mind Jerry Seinfeld's sharp observations on mundane modern life: "Shopping in Style" extols the virtues of Costco, and "Serious Shopping" imagines a man trying to buy lettuce from a riotously over-the-top grocery cult. The musical runs just over an hour, yet it still has a few rough spots. The midshow sketch "Checking Out" gives us a limp comedic premise that we've seen before on subpar sitcoms, and the piece "5 & 10" is a mix of awkward nostalgia and pitch problems. Nevertheless, this is a clever collection of tunes performed with an unabashedly cheesy enthusiasm that would make Liza proud. Open-ended run at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. $25-$29; 800-838-3006 or www.shoppingthemusical.com. (Frank Wortham) Reviewed June 14, 2006.
33rd Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival: Presented by Playwrights Foundation. See site for schedule. Through Aug. 1. www.playwrightsfoundation.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.
"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.
Afrosolo Arts Festival 17: Multidisciplinary arts festival presented by the AfroSolo Theatre Company. See site for schedule. July 29-Oct. 15. www.afrosolo.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.
Agnes the Barbarian: Produced by Thunderbird Theatre Company. Starting July 30. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 14. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.
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.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Tennessee Williams' classic play. Through Sept. 4. $26-$38. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.
City Solo: Solo theater performances by Bay Area stars. Starting Aug. 1. Sundays. Continues through Aug. 22. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.
Cowardly Things: Noel Coward gets the treatment. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through July 31. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.
The Fantasticks: Presented by SF Playhouse. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Sept. 4. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
In a World...: Blockbuster-based improv theater with the Un-Scripted Theater Company. Through Aug. 28. $10-$20. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.
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), 438-2668.
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.
Much Ado About Nothing: Presented by Woman's Will in parks throughout the Bay Area. See site for schedule. Through Aug. 29. Multiple Bay Area locations.
Nymph O'Mania: Presented by Wily West Productions. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 14. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433.
Obscura: Illusionist Christian Cagigal's new show. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 14. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.
Once Upon a Mattress: Presented by Young People's Teen Musical Theatre. July 30-Aug. 7. Randall Museum, 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), 554-9600.
Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Through Aug. 1. $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.
Piaf: Love Conquers All: Naomi Emmerson is Edith Piaf. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 7. $25-$36. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.
Posibilidad, or the Death of the Worker: The latest by the San Francisco Mime Troupe plays in venues throughout the Bay Area. See site for schedule. Through Sept. 19. Free. www.sfmt.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.
The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo show. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.
The San Francisco Olympians Festival: No Nude Men Productions presents 12 new plays on the theme of Greek gods. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 31. $10. www.sfolympians.com. Exit Stage Left, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.
A Streetcar Named Desire: Directed by Rebecca Longworth. Aug. 2-28. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747.
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.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Presented by San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. See site for schedule. Through Sept. 19. www.sfshakes.org. Multiple Bay Area locations.