Mamet, Damn It People at their worst have served Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet best, from the cutthroat competition between salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross to the sexual harassment scandal of Oleanna. Mamet's unflinching view of the human condition gets two readings this month, as the Magic Theater stages Cryptogram, the story of a failing marriage and a friendship betrayed as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy, and the Genesius Theater Company does American Buffalo, a drama in which three small-time thieves plan to steal a coin collection. Cryptogram opens with a preview at 8:30 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 9) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-21; call 441-8822. American Buffalo opens Friday, Jan. 10, at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 2) at the 450 Geary Studio Theater, 450 Geary, S.F. Admission is $15-17; call 673-1172.
The Politics of Dancing Two people can manage never to connect. That's the premise of Ney Fonseca's new dance duet, Parallel Tracks, which premieres at "Queers and Peers," a contemporary dance concert of solos and duets exploring bonds and rifts between lesbians and gay men, organized by Fonseca and choreographer Anne Bluethenthal. Common goals and different plans for reaching them inform these works, as do spirituality, sexuality, politics, and mortality. If Parallel Tracks is one side of these reconfigured relationships, Who Are You -- in which dancers grappling with their differences eventually generate a common vocabulary -- is the other. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 18) at Dancers' Group Studio Theater, 3221 22nd St., S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 824-5044.
So Very Berry Mick Berry revives his father, the late Sgt. Berry, in his solo performance piece Dad Fought Hitler, the Bottle & Me. The elder Berry, a World War II fighter who was captured behind enemy lines and spent a year in confinement, was a hard-drinking, hard-living womanizer, according to his son, who weaves their conversations and his father's writings into this comic and moving monologue about a guy and his dad. A former stand-up comedian and veteran of both the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and the Mime Troupe, Berry opens his show at 8 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 1) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 626-2169.
Byrne, Baby, Byrne In the grand rock 'n' roll tradition, ex-Talking Head honcho David Byrne is doing "Stairway to Heaven." But because Byrne has made a career of being different, his "Stairway" isn't a Zeppelin cover, but a public art series of photomontages displayed in Market Street advertising kiosks in conjunction with S.F. Camerawork's three-artist show "Anima Mundi." In "Anima Mundi," his first West Coast exhibit, Byrne tackles interpersonal power ploys; he'll be accompanied at a public reception by fellow exhibiting artists Luis Delgado Qualtrough and Mary Tsiongas, whose Cosmological Loteria and Divine Clouds, respectively, as well as photographs by Byrne, opened at the gallery last month. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. at S.F. Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F. Admission is free; call 764-1001.
Aerial Maneuvers Magic realism imbues Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics, the story of airport baggage handler Anibal de la Luna, who finds a mysterious and very pregnant young woman, Celestina del Sol, on the roadside during a torrential rain. Time loses all meaning after that, as Celestina's inability to tell hours from days and weeks is compounded by a love affair that develops between them, making clocks stop and years fly by. When Anibal's brother joins the pair, he finds himself affected as well. Judy Reyes plays Celestina and Gary Perez is Anibal when Berkeley Rep stages this work by Rivera, who also penned Marisol and Giants Have Us in Their Books. The show opens with a preview at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 7) at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison, Berkeley. Admission is $25-39; call (510) 845-4700.
Global Trotters By the time the Ethnic Dance Festival takes the stage, a pool of over 100 dance companies and soloists has been pared down to about 40. The place to see the cultural dances like the Egyptian dervish, the Argentine bolo, the Japanese butoh, and the Indian rajastani, before cuts and before the official festival ticket prices take effect, is at the fest auditions, which are judged by a panel of ethnic dance experts and a typically enthusiastic crowd. Auditions are held at 5 p.m. (also at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) at the McKenna Theater, 1600 Holloway, SFSU campus. Admission is a suggested $5 donation at the door; call 474-3914.
A Parisian in America The French invasion is nigh, and unfortunately, the soundtrack will be canned. Still, performances by the Paris Opera Ballet are infrequent enough to warrant a trip to Berkeley. As is traditional, the Opera tour presents mixed repertory in two programs. The 23 dancers -- etoiles (stars), soloists and principal dancers, and the corps de ballet -- will perform classics like the pas de deux from Act 2 of Bournonville's La Sylphide and Fokine's The Dying Swan alongside 20th-century works like Ben Stevenson's Three Preludes and Balanchine's Apollo. Established in 1661 by Louis XIV, the Opera Ballet has a formidable history and a rigorous preparatory school at which dancers are expected to absorb classical ballet and the new work modern choreographers like Twyla Tharp and Maguy Marin have created for the company. Tonight's performance begins at 8 p.m. (also Sunday at 2 p.m.) in Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-40; call (510) 642-9988.
Chat Room Cyberspace is the place at the Digital Queers' fifth annual benefit party, although organizers have also arranged for an actual physical site in which to socialize. This one's called "Party Hut," and the scheduled entertainment includes tunes spun by DJ Raoul Thomas and a live performance by Manhattan pop trio Betty, plus digital mud-wrestling and art shows, a RealAudio live cybercast, and refreshments. Digital Queers is a professional (and social) network of computer-industry people who raise money and collect computer equipment to get national gay and lesbian organizations like the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund wired. The party begins at 8:30 p.m. at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $35-50; call 339-2020.
Peace Offering Domestic violence advocate Pam Butler, diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah, and filmmaker Catherine Ryan are among several locals who participated in the creation of Making Peace, a four-part documentary series that prefaces Martin Luther King Jr. Day and showcases those who work to curb violence in their communities. Actress Ruby Dee narrates this series, which begins with "Soul Survivors," a profile of Clementine Barfield, a Detroit mother who founded the national support group Save Our Sons and Daughters after her son's murder, and Latino writer Luis J. Rodriguez, who recounts his progression from heroin addict and gang member to Chicago youth advocate. The series continues with "Healing the Family," a look at Butler and Dolores Sheen Blunt, principal of the Watts Sheenway School, followed by "Rebuilding Our Communities" and "Facing Racism," which traces the participants of Wah's program through five days of heated discussion and gradual understanding. "Soul Survivors," the first installment of the series, airs at 6 p.m. on KQED-TV Channel 9.
Funky Finds Righteous vintage threads from the '60s and '70s are among the relics at "Folk Art to Funk," an antique and collectibles market with over 150 participating national vendors selling all types of decorative and functional items. Folk art and country antiques are half the draw; mid-20th-century furniture and accessories, along with pottery, garden furniture, glass, trade signs, and advertising, provide the rest. This is the first of what organizers hope will be a twice-yearly local outing. The market opens at 10 a.m. in the Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $4; call 474-6053.
Get the Goods Despite its reputation, L.A. isn't just waiters writing screenplays and models waiting to break into Baywatch. The center of the commercial entertainment universe is also home to some fairly out-there performance and multimedia artists, many of whom have made themselves heard through Carol Cetrone's monthly underground performance series "Damaged Goods." Cetrone, a former showgirl and magician with a South American circus (and known in some circles as Perpetua), will discuss her own satirical dance-theater solo work and show video footage from the series as part of the like-minded local lecture series "Modus Mondays." Video clips include performances by the lesbian Jewish folk singer Phranc and former "NEA Four" target John Fleck, among others. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Transmission Theater, 314 11th St., S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 346-6456.
The Voice of an Angell After 50 years and Tina Brown, Roger Angell has earned his title as senior editor at the New Yorker through durability if nothing else. The son of longtime fiction editor Kathleen White, he began as a contributor to the venerable publication in 1946; 10 years later he became a fiction editor himself. On the nonfiction side of the magazine, Angell's specialty is sports, particularly baseball, about which he has written articles and books, and for decades has been one of the anonymous contributors to the magazine's "Notes and Comment" section. (This work has been collected in the book A Day in the Life of Roger Angell.) Hank Greenwald, a retired baseball announcer and former "voice of the San Francisco Giants," interviews Angell onstage at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
Reels on Wheels The startled expressions and amused comments of passers-by have been captured on film by Bay Area artist Harrod Blank, who traveled across the United States in a 1972 Dodge van covered with 1,705 cameras. Children's toy cameras, 40 cameras that flash, 10 functional cameras, and several video cameras recorded viewers' reactions to the van, which is also equipped with a CB radio and a PA system. An exhibit of the footage and the van itself opens at 10 a.m. (and is up through Feb. 2) at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon, S.F. Admission is free-$9; call 563-7337. (Blank will speak at a screening of his documentary Wild Wheels on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 2 p.m. in the Exploratorium's McBean Theater. The event is free with regular museum admission.)