The two-party system in this country is somewhat akin to a bad marriage: It clearly doesn't work, but it seems impossible simply to flee. Most people's political views are not black-and-white -- some Republicans are pro-choice, and some Democrats strongly support the military. But how often do politicians from either side go out on a limb to say so? "Continental Divide" is an exciting two-part drama about this nonsensical element of American politics, commissioned by Berkeley Rep and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from British playwright David Edgar.
"Divide" consists of two separate plays: Mothers Against and Daughters of the Revolution, both of which are set in an unnamed western state and take place during an intense gubernatorial election (sound familiar?). Mothers concerns the Republican hopeful, a fiscal conservative but social liberal, whose party is persuading him to lie about his views and slander his opponent; Daughters is about a middle-aged man's journey back into his radical-left past, which leads him to the morally flailing Democratic candidate's top advisers. The two plays can be seen alone or successively, in either order, as they riff off each other's plots and have overlapping characters. At three hours each, it's a lot to take in. But it could change your mind about the two-party system -- and maybe even the way you vote. "Continental Divide" opens today at 2 p.m. (and runs through Dec. 28) at Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Tickets are $10-55; call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Powerful wizards, magical crystals, superhuman telekinetic abilities: These things don't really exist -- at least that's the official propaganda put out by your average grown-up. But ask them to explain Michael Moschen's juggling performances, and they'll clam right up. He combines math, physics, and theatrical skills into an act that looks impossibly artful and gravity-defying. Among Moschen's many accomplishments: providing special effects in the film Labyrinth (he played David Bowie's hands), working with Cirque du Soleil, and receiving a MacArthur Fellowship. See him prove the grown-ups wrong at 8 p.m. at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags (at Civic Center), Marin. Admission is $20-38; call 499-6800 or visit www.marincenter.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The Inside Story
There's been a lot of Middle East oriented theater in town lately, but John Patrick Shanley's Dirty Story might be the most provocative. An apparently realistic play about an accomplished professor and his naive, enamored student, the drama soon finds the pair in a sadomasochistic nightmare: They become lovers, battling for apartment space and, essentially, the right to exist. As an Israel/Palestine allegory, Story is darkly absurd and existential, changing the issue from "How did it all start?" to the more pressing "Why can't we stop?" Catch it at 8 p.m. (the play runs through Dec. 20) at the Actors Theatre, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $15-20 ($5-20 on Thursdays); call 296-9179 or visit www.actorstheatresf.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Bring on the Pointy Boots
Considering America's revivalist pop culture, it's only fitting that the post-punk era would eventually return, bringing with it skinny ties, ripped off-the-shoulder tops, and the trash-punk of bands like Seattle's the Spits. Although the group affects the same keyboard flourishes, straight-ahead simpleton guitars, and "up yours" posturing so common during the '80s epoch, its members don't take themselves too seriously -- note the cheesy mustaches they wear while hammering home quirky retro punk. The Spits appear with Killer's Kiss, Bottles + Skulls, and Explosion at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $8; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Kevin Chanel