In 1962, Irish author Edna O'Brien's hometown in Clare County showed its pride in the local rising star by using her first novel, The Country Girls, to stoke the fires of a good, old-fashioned book burning. The honor of her native land swelled even further when Ireland banned eight of her other books, deeming them offensive to Irish women. (Really, you haven't made it as an artist until your work has been prohibited by government officials or thrown into a bonfire.) Needless to say, O'Brien has had a few harsh critics in her lifetime; however, the one-time pharmaceutical student has successfully made a career out of writing ever since, creating stories centered on domestic violence, infidelity, abortion, and the IRA.
Her newest work takes a less controversial and more personal turn with a tale based on matters of the heart. In Triptych, O'Brien's shrewd play about three women, she leads us to believe that love is, in fact, a bitch. (I couldn't agree with her more.) Its trio of female characters finds a common bond: one man about whom all share an obsession. The script illustrates how each of the ladies (the man's wife, mistress, and daughter) defines herself through this love, this fixation on a man who never appears onstage, but remains an essential figure throughout. O'Brien presents love as a feeling that not only changes our lives, but also forces us to change our lives for it. Through her characters she highlights the ironies of love and passion -- how they simultaneously liberate us and hold us captive.
This production benefits from the hand of Paul Whitworth, artistic director of the world-renowned Shakespeare Santa Cruz festival (he also spent several years with England's Royal Shakespeare Company), who guides his all-female cast through heavy, stimulating material. And in addition to regular performances, Friday nights feature post-show discussions with the artists and theater staffers. The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. (and the show has been extended through Jan. 25) at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $10-42; call 441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.
-- Brock Keeling
Snort With Bobby Slayton
Comedy's history contains countless in-your-face performers, from the blunt erudition and scathing indictments of Lenny Bruce, through the drug-culture populism of George Carlin and Cheech & Chong, on to the knuckle-dragging, shooting-fish-in-a-barrel antics of Andrew Dice Clay. Whereas the first two took the mundane and the topical and set them upon their own comic axes, the latter two brought humor to much wider audiences, by way of graceless posturing (Clay) and blatant youth targeting (Cheech & Chong). Somewhere along this continuum exists Bobby Slayton. No doubt influenced by the Carlin/Bruce camp, this self-proclaimed "pit bull of comedy" has been on the trail since the early '80s, hitting every "Zanies" and "Chuckles" from Portland to, uh, Portland. While never quite soaring to the level of notoriety, Slayton has etched his name into the pantheon of respected performers by being a "comedian's comedian." After all, as Slayton says, "If you can't laugh at yourself, make fun of other people." Come see how the pros do it at 9 and 11 p.m. on Friday (Slayton's booked through Wednesday) at the Punch Line, 444 Battery (at Clay), S.F. Admission is $12-20; call 397-4337 or visit www.punchlinecomedyclub.com.
-- Kevin Chanel
Better Than Ballet
Mexican dance troupe's roots show
Mexico's folklore is better than that of the United States: There's no nice way to say it. Our southern neighbor's artists seem friendlier to tradition, perhaps reflecting an older, more complicated nation much better aware of its many histories than we are. Amalia Hernández was one such artist: A classically trained dancer, she realized that the folk customs of her own country moved her more than stiff European forms. In 1952, she started a small company dedicated to regional and indigenous dance, which grew into the Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández.
The troupe's holiday performance, "Navidades: A Christmas Celebration," centers around a dance version of the annual party in Jalisco, a town where folks really, really love the holiday. High-energy interpretations of the rich diversity of rituals and traditions are accompanied by live music, starting at 3 p.m. at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags (at Civic Center), San Rafael. Admission is $18-45; call 499-6800 or visit www.marinfair.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
San Francisco and jazz music have had a long and bumpy history together. The Fillmore District was once well known for its many venues, ditto North Beach, but those spots faded in time. In the recent boom years, SOMA was the jazz place to be (OK, the place to be, period). Now, along with the rest of the city, jazz venues and acts are slowly pulling themselves back up to a standing position. John Schott's Typical Orchestra is, contrary to its name, distinctive. Longtime Schott collaborators attack truly eclectic stuff -- klezmer, old-timey country, free jazz -- in, now that we think about it, a typical Schott maneuver. Ches Smith of Good for Cows and Theory of Ruin, Devin Hoff of G.F.C. and the Nels Cline Singers, and New Klezmer Trio's Ben Goldberg are the other members of the "ork," as the old folks say. Telepathy opens at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser