Balzac put it best: "Marriage is a fierce battle before which the two partners ask heaven for its blessing, because loving each other is the most audacious of enterprises." And one of the most emotionally treacherous, too, as the couple in ACT's production of Yohen have found out. James, an African-American World War II vet, and Sumi, his frustrated Japanese-American pottery-artist wife, have been locked in a tumultuous union for more than 30 years. But after three decades of miscommunication and disappointment, Sumi's had enough of her beer-drinking, television-watching slob of a spouse. She kicks James out of their shared home, telling him the only chance he has of regaining her affection is to start from the beginning again. As the couple pretend to re-establish their courtship, the issues of race, culture, and color that drove them apart are examined in unnerving detail by playwright Philip Kan Gotanda (Ballad of Yachiyo, Life Tastes Good). Yohen premieres tonight at 8 (and runs through Sept. 27) at the Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is free-$24; call 834-3200 or visit www.act-sfbay.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
The Sleaze That Pleases
I'm not sure what's going on, but lately my life has been incredibly unlike a porn movie. The UPS guy rings my doorbell to make a delivery, yet fails to ask what else (wink, wink) he can do for me; the nurse at the doctor's office takes my blood pressure without removing her blouse; even on job interviews I'm not questioned about my, um, special skills. "Mondo Porno" feels my pain, and the bawdy blowout delivers amped-up lubricity to horny city dwellers with two rooms of raunch raging all evening long. Early arrivals to the Rock Room can view the uncut version of adult classic Deep Throat, followed by sexy musical performances from Tribe 8 and Apocalipstick and T&A and burlesque bump-and-grind from Harlem Shake and Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang. In the Lounge, Fetish Diva Midori plays hostess for an erotic photo show featuring work by artists such as Charles Gatewood and Larry Utley. The libidinous licentiousness begins at 8 p.m. at Club Galia, 2565 Mission (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 970-9777.
-- Joyce Slaton
A Devilish Dance
Stravinsky's Faustian tale
Igor Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale evokes both Faust and -- let's face it -- the Charlie Daniels Band, with its dramatic account (based on a Russian folk legend) of a soldier who gives Satan his violin in exchange for a book that's supposed to bring him riches. The catch? When the soldier returns home after the war, no one remembers him; his soul has been lost in the trade. The story is related by a narrator, who breaks down the fourth wall by directly advising the soldier to play cards with Lucifer and retrieve his immortal essence by jettisoning his stash of cash.
Charles Anderson's Company C Contemporary Ballet stages A Soldier's Tale with the original text by Stravinsky's collaborator, C.F. Ramuz. This is good news for anyone who likes a gripping story, but it's especially appealing for dance lovers who recognize Stravinsky as one of ballet's most exciting figures (and we do mean exciting -- when Diaghilev's Ballets Russes premiered Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in 1913, the startling combination of movement and music caused a riot in the theater), and appreciate a chance to view his work in its most traditional, undiluted form. The Bay Area has seen a number of Stravinsky dances in the last few years -- memorably Ballet Preljocaj's Rite of Spring and Les Noces -- and as next year's centennial of the birth of Stravinsky collaborator George Balanchine approaches, both the Kirov Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet will present the composer's work locally. In other words, this is a fine time to catch the less frequently staged Tale, before we see Stravinsky everywhere. The performance begins at 8 p.m. at the Cowell Theater at the Herbst Pavilion in Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $25-65; call 345-7575 or visit www.fortmason.org.
-- Heather Wisner
We must remember: There are other excellent places in the world. Bay Areans tend to be smug, but let's welcome a visiting poetry publication, even though it's from New York. The "Boog City Goes West" event features East Coasters, sure, but locals like Trane Devore make it worth our insular while. Smart poets from an independent magazine reading at a cool spot -- not bad for out-of-towners. At 7 p.m. at Mama Buzz Cafe, 2318 Telegraph (at 23rd Street), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 465-4073 or visit www.mamabuzzcafe.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
An Impromptu Invention
Improv can be unbelievably good -- or excruciatingly bad. But since most scenes are short, the stakes aren't high. 3 for All takes the art a step further with an off-the-cuff one-act play constructed from audience suggestions. The ad-libbing begins at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sept. 27) at the Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason, Building B, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $12-20; call 474-8935 or visit www.improv.org.
-- Joyce Slaton