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A Thrilling Death 

Angels watch over Corteo

Wednesday, Nov 23 2005
ONGOING 11/23-12/31

I first saw Grigor and Valentyna Paylevanyan in a burst of staccato images glimpsed through unabashed double takes (they are dwarfs, and I am rude) as they huddled on the Third Street Bridge, unfathomably thrilled by the brackish water. I saw them next onstage at Cirque du Soleil's Corteo, where they repeatedly brought the house down, whether it was when a giant flung Valentyna into the crowd (she was affixed to huge balloons; the crowd dutifully bounced her back) or when the pair attempted Romeo and Juliet in one of the troupe's signature comedy bits, with Grigor becoming "Super Romeo" as all hell broke loose on the tiny stage.

Then again, nearly every performer stole the show; after more than 20 years, the Quebec-based circus has produced yet another tightly wrapped performance mixing theater and acrobatics. Created by Daniele Finzi Pasca, Corteo concerns the joyous afterlife of a dead clown. Angels floats above the stage, and a sublime funeral march seems straight out of a Fellini movie. In the words of a lady of a certain age who sat behind me, "It's so beautiful I could cry."

The stunts are incorporated into the story line -- the dead clown's lovers swing from chandeliers, and "children" bed-hop during a pillow fight -- and feature moves far beyond the norm: Performers in the "Paradise" act, using a trampoline, bounce onto platforms as if they're in a videogame. Corteo continues through Dec. 18 at the Grand Chapiteau at SBC Park, Third Street & Terry A. Francois, S.F. Admission is $31.50-200; call (800) 678-5440 or visit
-- Michael Leaverton

Prom Queens

WED 11/23

The list of club nights named after glorious and clumsy acts of sex is almost endless; "Bondage A Go Go" is one of them. What makes this fuck-themed evening special is that it is, as its Web site reminds us, "San Francisco's longest-running fetish dance" club. Tonight it turns 12 and celebrates with a Perverts Prom. Although you probably won't see open displays of attendees' more intimate practices, you will find people dressed stylishly in black fetish attire like leather, whips, and formal wear. Jay Walker & the Cockavores perform a tribute to Prince, and DJs mix electro, goth, new wave, and pop beats. The foreplay starts at 9:30 p.m. at the Glas Kat, 520 Fourth St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 495-6626 or visit
-- Brock Keeling

Big Writing
Moody versus Wallace

MON 11/28

To produce a proper fat book, you must do more than simply dash off pages. Fat books are opportunities to show off, to indulge every literary whim you've had since reading Donald Barthelme in college. Characters should spill from the brick, and if plot emerges as mere cameo, so be it. At least one reviewer should say it "ultimately fails."

The Diviners is Rick Moody's fat book, a 576-page, heavily peopled beast about pop culture that starts with 11 pages describing the sunrise. Appearing tonight with Moody is David Foster Wallace, whose 1,079-page Infinite Jest nailed the form with unexpected humor. (His Scottish character's ode to his first solid crap after years of alcohol abuse is about the funniest thing I've ever read.) The pair compare notes at 8 at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $18.50; call 392-4400 or visit
-- Michael Leaverton

Soft Orbs
McNeely's art parts

ONGOING 11/23-12/10

If you were to let former costume designer Jennifer McNeely raid your bedroom closet, you'd find even the most banal of your creature comforts transmuted into voluptuous objets d'art. McNeely's chintzy-chic soft sculpture is inspired by the upswing of interest in crafts, as well as by her own closet full of nifty appurtenances. It's also distinctly coquettish, embracing the elegance and utility of hats, curlers, nylons, and other insignia of feminine maintenance. Her past work bears a striking resemblance to food and body parts, and includes the sculpture hysteria, made from stockings, beads, batting, and thread, which looks like a cascade of overgrown coconuts sporting so many nipples. Catch a glimpse of McNeely's curious confections at her eponymous show, through Dec. 10 at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-8855 or visit
-- Nirmala Nataraj

The Yiddish Monkey

SUN 11/27

Just in time for the holidays, the people who brought us Di Kats der Payats (The Cat in the Hat) have expanded the library of classic children's tales translated into Yiddish. George der Naygeriker follows the beloved Curious George through his famously mischievous adventures, told in the old language (a mix of German, Polish, Hebrew, and Russian) of the Ashkenazi Jews. (Wonder how you say, "The Man in the Big Yellow Hat"?) This afternoon, a reading by the husband-and-wife team of publisher Celeste Sollod and translator Zackary Sholem Berger -- "complete with dramatic flourishes and monkey noises," promises the store's Web site -- starts at 3 at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck (at Vine), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 486-0698 or visit
-- Hiya Swanhuyser


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