Speed-the-Playwright Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet has given us a vicious fight for survival among salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross; a violent screenplay adaptation of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice; corrupt Hollywood producers in Speed-the-Plow; the effects of changing mores about sexual harassment in academia in Oleanna; and two-bit con men with doomed big dreams in American Buffalo. Feel-good pieces aren't Mamet's forte, and yet he still finds audiences drawn first to his incisive dialogue, dazzling flashes of wit, and palpable dramatic tension; and then, deeper, to the unflinching realism of his portrayals of spiritually bankrupt, morally conflicted people. Examiner film critic Barbara Shulgasser (whose experience in the biz extends to having co-written Pret-a-Porter with Robert Altman) interviews Mamet at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
River Dance Like Japanese butoh company Sankai Juku, husband-and-wife duo Eiko and Koma have made nature an integral part of their work. In River, which premiered this summer in Pennsylvania, nature served both as poetic metaphor and literal stage, as the intrepid movement team presented their work at dusk in rivers and streams in the United States and Japan. River has moved indoors, where the Kronos Quartet plays Somei Satoh's original score live during the piece, but although its look has changed, its meditative essence remains. This version picks up where the other left off -- in darkness -- as Eiko and Koma immerse themselves in cultural perceptions of water as essential element and life force. When this River begins, in total darkness, with no sound save the audience breathing, the stillness that marks Eiko and Koma's choreography seems less of a shock, and more like the natural progression of things. The performance begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at the Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 978-ARTS.
Hot Talk With Live Writer! Herotica editor and noted "sexpert" Susie Bright calls Jack Boulware's book Sex, American Style "shag-alicious!" She's right, of course. Boulware, whose satirical investigative magazine The Nose specialized in news of the weird, and whose SF Weekly column Slap Shots has followed suit with items on PR bloat and dead costumed mice, now treats readers to the hilarious, revolting, and bizarre history of America's sexual revolution. Boulware spent two years compiling anecdotes, excerpts, and illustrations from the '60s and '70s for this entertaining new book, his first. Subtitled "An Illustrated Romp Through the Golden Age of Heterosexuality," Sex, American Style lines up the usual suspects (Linda Lovelace, The Joy of Sex) alongside the unusual (CB Mamas!) and the local (Margo St. James, Good Vibrations, the Mitchell Brothers). The narrative is broken up with amusing quips and quotes, like this assessment of the sexual style of newspaper men from the swinging stewardess memoir Coffee Tea or Me?: "Their approach is often direct, clumsy, distasteful, arrogant, lewd and highly annoying." See for yourself at the book-release party, where go-go dancers and vintage videos are part of the scheduled entertainment. The party begins at 6 p.m. at the Hi-Ball Lounge, 473 Broadway (at Kearny), S.F. Admission is free; call 39-SWING.
Wilde at Heart Queen Victoria and George Bernard Shaw offer their opinions during Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and hustlers stripped down to their underwear testify for the prosecution as the tinkly strains of "Rule Britannia" play over a music box. Ultimately, though, it's the playwright's own wit that undoes him in Victorian England's trial of the century. Writer/director Moises Kaufman not only delivers the story of Wilde's trials -- which began when Wilde sued his lover's father for libel, and culminated in a public discussion of homosexuality -- he makes it feel like a contemporary courtroom drama. A panel of gavel-wielding narrators reads from biographies and newspaper accounts, which the actors take up simultaneously, lending the script multiple perspectives. A modern academic evaluates Wilde's performance in court, and a cadre of international journalists weigh in with contradictory opinions. Actor Michael Emerson reprises his role as Wilde in this touring edition of the acclaimed New York production, which arrives on the heels of Ken Ruta's one-man show Oscar Wilde: Diversions and Delights. The show previews at 8:30 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 4) at Theater on the Square, 450 Post (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $25-39; call 433-9500.
Think Shrink Small pieces deliver the big ideas in "shrink," a juried exhibit curated by Julie Lazar, the director of experimental programs at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. The thematic link between this show's disparate artists and varied media is an emphasis on shrinking, which may be applied to violets, heads, space, resources, corporations, and the like. If it's shrinking, it's here. The exhibit will be accompanied by two events: "Neurosis (introspective performance for unstable people)," featuring stand-up comic Heather Gold and the Daughters of Houdini Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m., and "Keepsakes," an interdisciplinary panel discussion on the subtleties of miniatures Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The exhibit opens with a reception at 6 p.m. at Southern Exposure, 401 Alabama (at 17th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-2141.
A Place in This World 848 Community Space is more than just a theater: It's also been a crash pad, a classroom, a party space, and a laboratory. Working from Virginia Woolf's theory that what artists need to create is a room of their own, a stellar collection of 848 alumni and like-minded artists who've devoted themselves to creating such places presents "Making Space," a night of performances celebrating 848's sixth anniversary. Solo artists Stanya Kahn and Tim Miller join Venue 9 founder Mary Alice Fry and the High Risk Group on opening night; the second night includes work by Chicago choreographer Bob Eisen and John LeFan of Theater Artaud. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. each night (with a salon/discussion 3 p.m. Sunday) at 848 Community Space, 848 Divisadero (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $7-25; call 922-2385.
Love Is a Mighty Fund-Raiser The two Jo(h)ns behind Medea, the Musical -- Jon Zimmerman and John Fisher -- have collaborated on a new show that celebrates Zimmerman's marriage to Karen Ganly and benefits community service agencies that serve homeless kids. Loosely titled Whoopee!, the one-night variety show features live music by Matt Venuti and the Venusians and performances by Fisher and the Sassymouth Theater Troope, including Medea star Kegan Stedwell. Singer Joe Parks and dancer Jane Paik are among the guests slated to perform in the show, which Fisher describes as a campy collection of arias, duets, dances, comedy, magic, and surprises. The fun begins at 8 p.m. at the Minna Street Gallery, 111 Minna (at Second Street), S.F. Admission is $25; call 974-1719.
Live Wires Three Methodist ministers and three nurses gave the Bay Area its first regular taste of phone sex in November 1972, when the San Francisco Sex Information hot line began answering everything people wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask in person. SFSI will celebrate 25 years of sex education and public service with a "Silver Anniversary Bash." Writer Carol Queen and SFSI founders Maggi Rubenstein and Toni Ayers kick off the proceedings with a panel discussion on the nonprofit group's groundbreaking approach to sex education for people of all proclivities, followed by the premiere of Peter Menchini's 40-minute documentary Ask Us About Sex!, which chronicles the FBI raids and financial woes that occasionally threatened to put the long-lived hot line out of business along with footage of the Sexual Attitudes Restructuring training that kept it afloat. Cowpunk band the Kuntry Kunts will play live, and the remainder of the evening will be turned over to the spanking booth, raffle, and surprise attractions. The event begins at 8 p.m. at the Trocadero, 520 Fourth St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $8-20; call 989-7370.
Pacemakers Say you're in a band. Say your bass player, who has no health insurance, must suddenly undergo emergency open-heart surgery for a congenital heart problem he never knew he had. Say you want to pitch in for the medical bills. If you're Storm, of Storm & Her Dirty Mouth (and formerly of Flower S.F.), you do what other bands have done in worst-case scenarios like this one: You throw a benefit concert. "We're rallying around trying to help him pay for emergency room service since he has no real income," she says of bassist Ubi Whitaker, who is still recovering from his ordeal, but may try to play at his own benefit. "We'll probably have to have a series [of benefits], but this is the first." The benefit promises a little something for everyone, be they jazz fans, flamenco devotees, hip hop lovers, or rock aficionados, with performances by Liar, the Broun Fellinis, Birdsaw (formerly Five Feet to the Window), Storm & Her Dirty Mouth, and maybe the Marginal Prophets. Insured 9-to-5ers with heart conditions shouldn't take this as an opportunity to gloat: Unlike Whitaker, they'll probably never receive a get-well card from Jane's Addiction. The show begins at 9 p.m. at the Cat's Grill and Alley Club, 1190 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is a suggested $6 donation; call 431-3332.
Ska's Next Hurrah Rude boys and girls will appreciate Long Island ska combo the Scofflaws for the groaner puns in song titles "Ska-La Parisian" and "Ska La-Carte," and for the way they tip their porkpie hats to ska classics like "Stupid Marriage" with head-bobbing new songs like "Nude Beach." The Scofflaws (Why isn't it the Skaflaws? Oh ... that's why) borrowed Lenny Kravitz's studio to record Ska in Hi-Fi in the low-fi style of '60s ska bands like the Skatalites, complete with ribbon mikes and analog tape. That's not to suggest the Scofflaws are all nostalgia, but ska fans who caught the '94 Skavoovie tour know they can always request the musical tribute to William Shatner or the cover of "Night Train." Slow Gherkin opens the show at 8 p.m., followed by the Blue Beat Stompers at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 522-0333.