The Best Little Nuthouse in Texas There's a reason everyone in A Tuna Christmas starts to seem strangely familiar after a while, and it's not the inbreeding. As they did in their first show, Greater Tuna, writer/performers Joe Sears and Jaston Williams play all the characters in the tiny town of Tuna, Texas, from aggro gun shop owner Didi Snavely to Charlene, the pigtailed teen thespian in love with her gay drama teacher. The quick and drastic behind-the-scenes costume changes alone are worth the price of admission. Williams and Sears (whose multiple roles in Christmas earned him a Tony nomination), are Southern boys who drew on personal experience to create these rednecks, misfits, and dreamers in a Texas backwater. It's a funny and mostly affectionate parody, although it can sting: Witness the KKK-sponsored skeet shoot ensuring "the whitest Christmas ever." People who fled towns like Tuna won't want to miss the return of Christmas, which opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 21) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $29-39; call (877) 771-6900.
The Israelites The "Desert Cliche" visual art series, which set out to debunk the stereotype of Israelis as alternately warring or pious types, wraps up its accompanying film series with two entries that show off the country and its people in greater dimension. Doron Tsabari and Rino Zror's Underdogs: A War Story explores the universal clashes between rich and poor, race and class, even big cities and small towns, through a documentary on the Moroccan Jewish immigrants of Beit Shean's blue-collar soccer team. The dramatic conflict comes to a head when the team makes it to the National League and faces a better-financed championship team from Tel Aviv. Ari Folman and Ori Sivan, on the other hand, take the magical realism route with Saint Clara, an absurdly charming punk love story based on a banned 1968 novel by Czech writers Pavel and Yelena Kohout. In it, the town's teen-agers hang out in swamps awaiting the end of the world until a beautiful Russian emigre with clairvoyant powers arrives and turns their world upside down. Underdogs screens at 8 p.m. tonight; Clara screens at 7 p.m. Sunday at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $5-6; call 978-ARTS.
What Fresh Hell Is This? In the original Greek myth, Earth goddess Demeter lets crops die and causes widespread suffering after her daughter Persephone is abducted by Hades into the Underworld. In Nightletter Theater's Persephone's Dream, Earth is a dilapidated apartment building, Demeter is a supe struggling with broken water pipes, and her adolescent daughter Sephie arrives at the Underworld by subway; Demeter reacts to Sephie's loss the most modern way possible, by cutting off her tenants' power. Nightletter's retelling of the myth explores the same tenuous bonds between parents and children and the same dangers in growing up, but this is an interactive multimedia production involving both film and live performance: Viewers walk through the refrigerated laboratory of the Underworld, and a puppet show based on a 17th-century version of the Sleeping Beauty story offers a parallel narrative. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 22) at Somar Theater, 934 Brannan (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $15-17; call 552-1770.
Graphic Delights The Vintage Poster Fair is a classy affair, so don't go looking for that Farrah-on-a-blanket number. This show and sale of over 10,000 international vintage placards focuses on turn-of-the century art nouveau and belle epoque works by artists including Toulouse-Lautrec, art deco posters by A.M. Cassandre and Roger Broders, and Italian design circa 1900-1930. Many of these were used for advertising; belle epoque works of the late 1800s, posted on Parisian streets to promote products like chocolates and spirits, were only preserved by the collectors' craze that followed shortly after they began to appear. A special exhibit spotlights the work of Berkeley designer David Lance Goines, best known for his text-and-linocut vignettes Thirty Recipes Suitable for Framing and his tasteful designs for Alice Water's Chez Panisse restaurant. The fair begins at noon (and continues through Sunday) at Fort Mason Center, Landmark Building A, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 546-9608.
Over a Barrel Some people don't like Halloween, and would rather avoid dressing up, fighting the crowds, and dealing with public drunkenness and hooliganism. Short of staying home, though, there aren't many local entertainment alternatives except for ... the Grand National Rodeo, Horse, and Stock Show! People will be dressed in western costumes and in some cases as clowns (clown-phobes, you've been warned), but otherwise this is about as far removed from Halloween as things get. The rodeo's official opening ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday night; today's events include livestock judging, hunters and jumpers, Agricultural Youth Day, and a performance by country singer Toby Keith (at 7:30 p.m.). The rodeo continues through Nov. 8: Highlights include Merle Haggard Nov. 1 and Sheepmen's Day Nov. 6. Doors open at 9 a.m. and all events are held at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, Daly City. Admission is $10-25; call 469-6065.
Long Time Coming Missed Jon Spencer last weekend? There's always P.W. Long and Reelfoot, a band of punks who mess with the blues in similarly noisy fashion. Detroit native and former Mule singer/guitarist Preston Long put together his second Touch and Go album, Push Me Again, with Jesus Lizard guitarist Mac McNeilly and Hairwash bassist Dan Maister. Things got ugly from the get-go, with the dirty boogie of "Signifyin' Honkey" on into "Eagleeye," where slide guitar gets the metal treatment in Long's raspy-voiced account of love gone wrong. Since Mssrs. McNeilly and Maister have other commitments, Long and Mark Boyce, who played electric piano and organ on the album, are touring with a Georgia rhythm section -- Bubba Rhinestone open for them at an all-ages barbecue show at 5 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.
Southern Gossip As a prelude to next week's Bay Area Book Festival, the San Francisco Bay Area Book Council is sponsoring a handful of local literary events including "A Couple of Bastards Out of Carolina," an onstage conversation between Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison and Tales of the City serialist Armistead Maupin, native South and North Carolinians, respectively. They'll talk about their Southern upbringings vs. their California adulthoods, their experiences coming out, and some of their favorite books beginning at 7 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $20-75; call 392-4400. Additional events include actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis in conversation Nov. 4 and Cokie and Rebecca Roberts Nov. 5; call 392-4400 for tickets and more information.
Re: Joyce Harrowing emotional scenes and episodic violence interrupt otherwise ordinary lives in Joyce Carol Oates' stories. The prolific author, a two-time Nobel Prize nominee, has gotten into the head of a serial killer with her novel Zombie and slogged through the complexities of human relationships in the short stories of Will You Always Love Me?, delineating heartbreak with meticulous, powerful prose. Oates hasn't limited herself to novels, although she has written 25 of them, and short stories, which have been published in collections outside her own. Plays, literary criticism, essays, volumes of poetry, and the libretto to an opera version of her novel Black War are part of her canon. Her latest works include a short story collection, The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque, and Marya, a novel about an emotionally complex artist. Oates will talk about those pieces and what's involved in becoming a quadruple literary threat beginning at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
In the Cards Tranny psychics will be reading the cards, answering queries about love lives and election results tonight at a full-moon release party for the new Cosmic Tribe Tarot. The deck and accompanying book, with text by Eric Ganther, was created by visual artist Stevee Postman, who gives archetypal images a techno-pagan spin. His Queen of Wands is a nude snake charmer with flaming locks and multiple tattoos; his Wands are long, vine-covered arms that shoot up from the ground toward a peach tree; all the landscapes are vividly surreal. A live band and DJ Logos add to the mystical ambience at the reading, which begins at 7 p.m. at 111 Minna Street Gallery, 111 Minna (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 387-3843.