For most mainstream plays that come to town, theater troupes put on a special performance for the hearing-impaired. But a Broadway musical opening this week won't have such a performance because the entire thing is done in sign language. That may seem strange -- a musical delivered soundlessly -- but the Deaf West Theatre of Los Angeles, developed in 1991, does it all the time. To be more accurate, this production of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is only partly silent. An unusual combination of spoken English and American Sign Language, it also incorporates dance and various storytelling traditions, a style created by the company as a "third language" to bridge the gap between hearing and non-hearing worlds.
Based on Mark Twain's famous tale, Big River follows Huck up the Mississippi in the 1840s, fleeing from a drunken dad; the boy meets up with a slave named Jim, and they enter into an unexpected friendship. Of the performers, some are hearing and some deaf, and the audience is likely to be the same. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $30-85; call 512-7770 (voice) or (877) 474-4TDD (TTY) or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.
-- Karen Macklin
New and possibly dangerous one-acts
Sketch comedy troupe Killing My Lobster has a new-play festival named after the place where explorer Meriwether Lewis accidentally shot someone in the head while showing off a new invention. And hey, if that's the metaphor the company wants to use, that's fine with us. Is it creepy to imagine that someone might mishandle a comedic one-act and -- whoops! -- kill an innocent bystander? Sure. But the Bruno's Island Festival sounds smart and funny, especially Kevin Shay's The Listening Room, in which a rock critic is taken to task by a gun-wielding psycho. Is the shooter really that crazy, though? Let's see a show of hands: How many of you have fantasized about pulling this exact stunt? Well, OK then. Curtain time is 8 p.m. (through June 20) at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 558-7721 or visit www.killingmylobster.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Students of the silly arts
Ever wonder where circus performers come from? One does not just wake up some fine morning and decide to audition for Cirque du Soleil, after all. There must be some sort of training process, a field of study related to spinning big hoops on your feet while doing the splits standing up. It's true! The San Francisco School of Circus Arts, along with the SF Youth Circus and the Clown Conservatory, train all sorts of clowns and acrobats, and they'll be contorting, capering, and making 'em laugh at "Expand!" starting at 8 p.m. (through June 13) at the Theater at Project Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), S.F. Admission is $12-35; call 759-8123 or visit www.artaud.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
We know what you're thinking, but the Brooklyn trio behind mid-'90s anthem "Popular" is no one-hit wonder. Armed with a new album that scored tons of underground buzz, Nada Surf shows off its chops acoustic-style at 8 p.m. at Café du Nord's Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Just don't ask 'em to play that song. Admission is $12; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com.
-- Maya Kroth