The Last Dance Unconditional Theater, the company that brought us Groping for Justice: The Bob Packwood Story and In the Chair: Confessions of a Department Store Santa, opens its '98 season on a bittersweet note with The Baltimore Waltz, by playwright Paula Vogel, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning work How I Learned to Drive recently played Berkeley Rep. Vogel wrote Waltz, a tenderhearted comic drama about siblings traveling together through Europe, as an imaginary journey with her own brother, who died from AIDS-related complications before he had the chance to take such a trip. Like the company's previous productions, Waltz possesses a sly, dark edge: In this case, Vogel reverses the illnesses, so that the sister suffers from Acquired Toilet Disease, a malady so rare that a Viennese specialist offers the only hope of treatment. Vogel mines humor and pathos from medical bureaucracy and other unlikely subjects in the show, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through June 6) at the Hotel Monaco, 501 Geary (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is $12-15 (partial proceeds benefit Shanti); call 437-5527.
Facing the Music The specter of war and Japanese internment haunts the song-and-dance numbers of Shanghai Lil's, the Pan Asian Repertory Theater's musical about a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant that's converted into a nightclub during World War II. True love arrives at an inopportune time for nightclub dancer Mei-Mei and waiter-turned-soldier Chase, while Sara, the teen-age songstress of the Andrews Sisters-like trio the Flower Sisters, spends her offstage hours pining for her parents in Japan and worrying about being shipped off to a camp once her ancestry is discovered. The show, with book and lyrics by Lilah Kan and music by Louis Stewart, is based on actual clubs that flourished locally during wartime, and plays the city after enjoying a sold-out world premiere at New York's St. Clement's Theater last year. It opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 23) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $25-50; call 441-3687.
Boys Keep Swinging In a big Irish Catholic family, the boy who can't throw a ball is the boy who becomes a priest, or so John McGivern has declared in his autobiographical comedy shows MidWestSide Story and John McGivern Live. One of the Boys: Stories From the Midwest is the latest installment of these, a performance based on funny stories from his Milwaukee youth, including his stint in a Franciscan seminary. McGivern's mug will look familiar to fans of the long-running comic murder mystery Shear Madness, of which he is a seven-year veteran, and to comedy buffs who caught him in Comedy Central's Out There specials. Family, culture, coming of age, and gay themes are central to McGivern's work, where ruminations on multiple 12-step groups collide with thrilling tales of men in satiny shorts smacking each other with gloved hands (McGivern is a boxing fan). The show opens at 10:30 p.m. (and runs through July 31) at City Cabaret, 450 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $15; call 931-9707.
Some Cha-Cha, Some Ha-Ha National Theater of the Deranged alum Diane Amos, known to TV viewers as the Pine Sol Lady, joins comic Marga Gomez at She Who Laughs Lasts, an annual benefit for S.F. Women Against Rape, an agency whose work is generally more grim than comic. Undeterred by sobering statistics (like the 900 misdemeanor and felony sexual assaults reported to the SFPD last year, and the slim percentage of actual incidents that figure is said to represent), Amos and Gomez will go for as many giggles as they can get, as Gomez dissects the freakish cult of the itty-bitty backpack and Amos compares the dueling parenting styles of her Jewish and African-American lesbian mothers. The evening wraps up on the dance floor as 12-piece band Dulce Mambo plays a little cha-cha here, a little rumba there, and a merengue for good measure. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Russian Center, 2460 Sutter (at Divisadero), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 861-2024.
Play Day in the East Bay A climbing wall at a beer festival might sound like a mean joke, but the Berkeley Brewers SpringFest '98 is offering one anyway (unlike last year's KQED beer fest, however, they're skipping the speed-pitch machine). The Berkeley Brewers Guild is throwing the festival to benefit the Berkeley Brewery Trail Guide, a map of self-guided walking tours through Berkeley breweries -- hence, the link between drinking and actual physical activity. Cautious souls who'd rather not swill 'n' scale will get other opportunities to hurt themselves, in the cigar garden or on the dance floor, where Tainted Love, Shana Morrison, and East of Eden offer live accompaniment. Bison, Pyramid, Jupiter, Golden Pacific, and other local breweries provide the liquid refreshments at the festival, which runs from 1 to 11 p.m. in the Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse parking lot, 901 Gilman (at Ninth Street), Berkeley. Admission is a $2 donation; call (510) THE-ROCK. People who like a little culture with their festival should try the Himalayan Fair, where local Himalayan families and expatriates will be dishing up spicy, saucy Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese dishes. Live entertainment runs the gamut from Tibetan bell music to Indian Odissi dance and interpretive masked theater. The fair runs from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. (10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday) at Live Oak Park, 1300 Shattuck (at Berryman), Berkeley. Admission is a $5 donation; call (510) 869-3995. Ambitious types will want to swing by both of these and the Reclaiming the Streets Street Party and March, too. This very DIY civic protest against car culture and chain-store homogeneity kicks off with a march and bike ride at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley BART station (Center & Shattuck), and proceeds to an undisclosed location for a street party dominated by music and dancing, games, and conversation. Admission is free, although participants are encouraged to bring noisemakers and instruments, food to share, games, furniture, and decorations; call (510) 595-4652.
Tabla for Two Swapan Chaudhuri knocks out a mosaic rhythmic pattern on the tabla, a two-piece goat-skinned Indian drum, underscoring the intricate passages of Ali Akbar Khan's 25-string sarod, at "Masters of the Classical Music of North India." The concert marks the latest in a series of collaborations between the musicians, both of whom live in the Bay Area but remain among the handful of the world's most celebrated practitioners of Indian classical music. Most recently Cornershop, and the Byrds and the Beatles before them, helped to familiarize Western ears to Indian music and instruments like the sitar, but Khan's ecstatic, open-ended improvisation won't sound like anything pop fans have heard. Khan plays the sitar, but he's considered the world's master of the subtler sarod, which sounds less sweet and is found less often outside Indian music. Khan specializes in ragas, the melodic motifs on which improv is built; there are thousands of them, each related to times and seasons. He and Chaudhuri, in a rare public performance, play a morning raga at the concert, which begins at 11 a.m. in the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. Admission is $15-30; call 454-6264.
Noise, Glorious Noise Like labelmates Helmet and Unsane, Amphetamine Reptile bands Gaunt and Nashville Pussy produce a mighty rock 'n' roll roar as assaultive as it is invigorating. The Ohio-based Gaunt, whose split single with New Bomb Turks and contribution to the Dope, Guns, and Fucking in the Streets comp boosted their name recognition, prepare audiences for Nashville Pussy, whose actual physical presence threatens to overshadow the music itself, a raunchy Southern-fried rock that leans more toward Ted Nugent than Southern Culture on the Skids. Former Nine Pound Hammer guitarist Blaine Cartwright and guitarist wife Ruyter Suys get rhythmic backup from former Phantom Creeps drummer Jeremy Thompson and bassist Corey Parks, a fire-breathing, blond-hair-thrashing, 6-foot-3-inch Amazon whose "Eat Me" tattoo has something to do with the band's album Let Them Eat Pussy (which was recorded by bouncy Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch, as it turns out). Murder City Devils, the first group signed to Sub Pop offshoot Die Young Stay Pretty, open the show at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-0750.
The New Road Rage Some mornings, the most a bicyclist can look forward to is a flip of the finger or a tumble over some driver's windshield. But not today! Today is Bike-to-Work Day, and besides the delightful prospect of less cars on the road, bicyclists will enjoy citywide "energizer stations," where they may pull up for a free cup of coffee and a nutrition bar, or some bottled water to go. Regular riders can pass on fashion tips -- knee-high boots look sharp and protect stockings from chain trauma and the elements -- and offer neophytes lots of encouragement, stressing the exercise and better air quality, and keeping the rant about red-light-running, road-hogging, no-turn-signaling cars in check. For a full list of energizer station locations (including Valencia & 18th Street, Duboce & Market, Ninth Avenue & Irving, and others), see www.rides.org or call (800) 755-POOL. Other events planned for Bike-to-Work Week: "Waving Wednesday" (May 20) and a Bike-Away-From-Work Party May 21 at the Pier 40 Roastery on the Embarcadero.