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Encore 

Our critics weigh in on local theatre

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Breakfast With Scot. Is the world ready for a play about a flamingly queer 11-year-old raised by two gay men? It should be, since Breakfast With Scot was a novel by Michael Downing before he turned it into a play, and the novel was well reviewed in 1999. (Publishers Weekly called Downing's fictional family "a potent, realistic new configuration of contemporary American values.") But the play is a disaster. Ed and Sam, a well-groomed professional couple in Cambridge, Mass., start looking after a boy named Scot after Scot's mother dies. The kid is more than a sissy: He wears blouses and kitsch jewelry, eyeliner and perfumed skin moisturizer, and affects the dandyism of an old queen yet talks in a piping, innocent voice. His habits amuse and embarrass Ed and Sam. They try to be good liberal parents, but Scot is precocious. He also makes secret cell-phone calls to commune with his dead mother. Not a minute of the play feels untendentious or graceful; even Scott Cox and Javier Galito-Cava, the adult actors playing Sam and Ed (respectively), have to force their gay mannerisms. Watching the young Sam Garber force his, as Scot, is painful. The show has an air of presenting an odd situation as though it's perfectly normal -- as if to say, "Look, we can be a healthy nuclear family, too" -- but the strain is obvious in every scene. If director Ed Decker wants to illustrate a "realistic new configuration" of modern American values with a play like this, I'm afraid he (and his actors) will have to work about nine times harder. Through Sept. 12 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $20-32; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Sept. 1.

Circumnavigator. Dan Hoyle circled the globe on a grant two years ago from the Chicago-based Circumnavigators Club, using its money to develop a piece of "journalistic theater" about globalism. If you've never heard of journalistic theater, don't worry: Hoyle may be its only living practitioner. In Circumnavigator he hops from Vietnam to India to Kenya to South Africa to Argentina, talking earnestly to everyone about labor issues. "In India, story is -- big country, small economy," says an editor of India Today. "Sex industry, mon. Mad cash," says a teenager in Kenya. "I'm from Durban, and I fucking rip waves," says a dangerously drunk pro surfer in South Africa, who's proud of his sponsorship by an American company. Many of these miniportraits are entertaining and vivid; Hoyle is a talented mimic. But as a writer he still has a weak sense of climaxes and shapely scenes. His story wanders; his set-pieces peter out. Apparently aware that he goes on too much about globalism, he says he's arrived in Kenya "to quit thinking about American companies and foreign investment." For most of us that wouldn't be hard. But the problem is not that Hoyle thinks too much about what is, after all, the topic of his show; the problem is that he never makes a discernible point. He circles his topic the way he circles the planet -- without quite arriving anywhere. Through Sept. 25 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (between 21st and 22nd streets), S.F. Tickets are $10-14; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Aug. 11.

Intimate Details. Here's how straight I am: Until Marga Gomez opened her latest show, I never knew there was a hierarchy of Gay Pride events. Gomez tells us about her career slide as a Pride MC, from St. Louis Pride to Pensacola (Fla.) Pride to Buffalo (N.Y.) Pride to (apparently rock-bottom) New Jersey Pride. Each year Gomez gets fired, and in Jersey she neglects her work in favor of a suburban single mom named Shona, the "hippest" woman there. Crass-tongued Shona smokes Parliaments, nags her daughter, has two cell phones, and talks to her ex-husband while Gomez performs certain duties in bed. The affair sounds so hideous I'll assume Gomez made the whole thing up, especially the titular "details." But it is hilarious. At first Gomez's delivery feels recited, but she builds momentum when she begins to shift into rapid-fire dialogue between her own persona and Shona's, and soon the show becomes what an audience deserves to expect from a veteran, self-described "Dyke of Darkness." If anything, Gomez doesn't know when to stop. A final scene involving a dog seems superfluous; by then the story has climaxed at least three times. Through Sept. 12 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at Mission), S.F. Tickets are $15-28; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Sept. 1.

The Lion King. How do you turn a decent cartoon about African wildlife into a lame Broadway musical? 1) Puzzle carefully about the problem of costumes and sets. Pour millions of dollars and hours of mental energy into making your actors look like lions, hyenas, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, and birds. Solve the problem brilliantly. Hire Julie Taymor to design the magnificent costumes and masks (and to direct the show). Hire Garth Fagan to choreograph elegant, exciting, Afro-Caribbean dance routines. Make sure Donald Holder lights the stage with an eloquent feeling for African distances and sunshine. In general make the show a visual feast. Then, 2) squint in confusion at the script, and 3) carve it up to make room for appalling songs by Tim Rice and Elton John. You'll have a profitable bunch of nonsense with more than one God-soaked number that sounds indistinguishable from bad Whitney Houston. The only cast member who can transcend this mess and give a stirring performance is Thandazile Soni, as Rafiki the monkey shaman, who gets to sing songs like "Nants' Ingonyama," by Lebo M, and other African chants originated by Tsidii Le Loka on Broadway. Bob Bouchard is also funny as Pumbaa the warthog, and Derek Smith plays a perfectly arrogant, sinister Scar, the pretender lion king. Otherwise the show is forced and childish. Adults looking for good theater will be happier when the performers dance instead of trying to act. Through Nov. 21 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Tickets are $26-160; call 512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Feb. 11.

Not a Genuine Black Man. It's not easy being green, but try being a black kid in San Leandro in the early '70s. When Brian Copeland got there -- just a few months after the Summer of Love, he points out -- it was one of the most viciously racist suburbs in America. Now it's officially the most diverse. "Take that, San Francisco," Copeland chides. He's earned that attitude, not just for going through his hell of growing up, but also for extracting from it such affirmative, hilarious stuff. Copeland's rightfully popular one-man show is wrought from pain and rage, but never really succumbs to bitterness. "Is that black?" he asks, and proves that it is. Some of his best stereotype-busting material doesn't feel especially new, but it does feel good. Besides, it's the stereotypes that have passed their expiration dates: Copeland's title comes from an accusation recently flung at him by a cranky listener who called in to his KGO radio program. This show is his response. With help from declarative lighting and David Ford's direction, Copeland creates an affecting hybrid of the dramatic monologue and the rollicking stand-up act. Through Oct. 30 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed June 2.

Also Playing

AfroSolo Arts Festival: The 11th edition of the annual arts festival features African-American artists and their visual arts exhibitions, dance, music, theater, spoken word, and performance art. Through Oct. 15, free-$50, www.afrosolo.org. Multiple locations, multiple addresses within San Francisco.

Are We Almost There?: Morris Bobrow's rollicking, long-running musical comedy about the trials and tribulations of travel. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m., $20-22. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

BATS: Sunday Players: Each week Bay Area Theatresports players pit their improv work against all comers as the audience votes them off one by one until the winner stands alone on the stage. Sundays, 8 p.m., $8, for more information call 474-6776. Fort Mason, Bldg. B, Marina & Buchanan.

Beach Blanket Babylon: This North Beach perennial features crazy hats, media personality caricatures, a splash of romance, and little substance. Wed., Thur., 8 p.m.; Fri., Sat., 7 p.m. & 10 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. & 7 p.m., $25-65. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Charge of the Night Brigade: With anti-war songs, live robotics, and 3-D animation, OmniCircus riffs on the Abu Ghraib-inspired prison scandal in this scary performance. Saturdays, 9:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, $10 suggested donation, www.omnicircus.com, 701-0686. OmniCircus, 550 Natoma (near Sixth St.), 621-4068.

Couch: Celik Kayalar wrote and directs this comedy about the strange problems faced by patients and long-suffering mental health professionals. Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 25, $10-20. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance: Ablaze with sequins, rhinestones, and 1950s-era cat-eyed specs, the drag queen deluxe provides counseling, psychic readings, brassy song, and a brand new wardrobe to die for. See www.bestofbroadway-sf.com for a schedule of performances. Tue.-Sun. Continues through Oct. 8, $40-72, 512-7770. Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), 749-2228.

Dog Act: The world premiere of Liz Duffy Adams' new comic fable about a post-apocalyptic vaudeville show. Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19, free, www.shotgunplayers.org. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 587-4465.

Flower Drum Song: The owners of a venerable Chinese opera house in San Francisco worry about their future of their enterprise in this updated take on Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic play. Thur.-Sun., 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 12, $19-31, 510-531-9597. Woodminster Amphitheater, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland.

Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies: Matt Chaffee's sex comedy looks at a group of old friends who dissect their erotic lives together. Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 2, $10-15. La Val's Subterranean Theater, 1834 Euclid (at Hearst), Berkeley, 510-234-6046.

Free Shakespeare in the Park Festival: This year the players take on Shakespeare's daffy crossdressing comedy Twelfth Night with live music and René Magritte's ethereal images as backdrop visuals. Sat., Sun., 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 26, free, 422-2222, www.sfshakes.org. Presidio Parade Grounds, Lincoln & Montgomery.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change: Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts' original comic musical examines our embarrassing inner notions on relationships. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m. & 9 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 30, $35-55. Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter (at Mason), 877-771-6900.

I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road: A revival of the 1978 musical comedy about a cabaret singer who's itching to participate in the sexual revolution; see www.dlrca.org for a schedule of performances. Starting Sept. 11, Tue.-Sun. Continues through Oct. 7, $20-32. Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic (at Locust), Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469.

A Little Princess: TheatreWorks launches a musical production of the classic play adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's treasured children's novel. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Every other Saturday, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, $20-50. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro (at Mercy), Mountain View, 650-903-6000.

Persians: A revamp of Greek playwright Aeschylus' tales of the ancient Persian Wars. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 10, $28-45. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org.

The Secret in the Wings: Mary Zimmerman's latest work is billed as a kind of surreal fairy tale for adults, inspired partly by "Beauty and the Beast." Tue.-Sun. Continues through Oct. 17, $39-55. Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-647-2949.

Showdown at Crawford Ranch: This year's sly Bush-bashing San Francisco Mime Troupe production is set on the tumbleweed-strewn prairies of Texas, where, to protect their tribal lands, Comanche Indians must fight robber baron Cyrus T. Bogspavin and his ally, Mayor Canem. Through Sept. 26, free, for more information call 285-1717, www.sfmt.org. Multiple locations, multiple addresses within San Francisco.

The Taming of the Shrew: Marin Shakespeare Company mounts a Wild West-themed production of Shakespeare's comic romance. Sundays, 4 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 25, free-$26. Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 50 Acacia (at Grand), San Rafael, 499-1108.

The White House Murder Case: Jules Feiffer's political satire concerns a President who finds himself embroiled in a futuristic war in Brazil on the eve of the elections. Starting Sept. 10, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 26, $18-29. Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield (at Embarcadero), Palo Alto, 650-903-6000.

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