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Encore 

Our critics weigh in on local theater

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Rapunzel. The Children's Theatre Association of San Francisco gives the well-known yarn about a girl with exceedingly long locks a new sheen with its romping musical adaptation of Rapunzel, staged in the Legion of Honor's gorgeous, subterranean wedding cake of a theater. With its gender stereotyping -- a frilly pink dress and squeaky voice for the generously tressed damsel in distress, and a feathered cap, black boots, and swagger for her handsome prince -- and tidy moral messages, this production presents, in some ways, a traditional retelling of the Grimm fairy tale. But the fizzy book and lyrics by David Crane and Marta Kauffman (an interesting departure for the Emmy Award-winning writing duo behind the Friends television series), composer Michael Skloff's toe-twirling tunes, and quirky performances by CTA's strong-voiced ensemble ensure that the cobwebby one-liner "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair" isn't a letdown. In fact, some of the jokes play as well to adults as they do to children. From a vegetarian witch (played alternately by Suzy Cronholm and Susan Pelosi) who wears too much hairspray and enjoys turning little boys into Brussels sprouts with her magic ring to a love duet with the tongue-in-cheek refrain "Me, my hair, and I," CTA's show is a scalp-tickling experience. Through Feb. 12 at the Florence Gould Theater, Legion of Honor, 34th Avenue & Clement, S.F. Tickets are $8-10; call 750-3600 or visit www.ctasf.com. (Chloe Veltman) Reviewed Jan. 19.

Rush Limbaugh in Night School. Charlie Varon has revived and revamped his hilarious 1994 solo tour de force, a satire that may owe more than a little to Tom Stoppard's Travesties, about Rush Limbaugh and a cast of mostly still-relevant national figures from the left and right. When a conservative Latino radio host threatens Limbaugh's dominance in a Florida market, the potbellied pundit puts on a beard and enrolls in Spanish night classes (at the New School), where he falls in love with a fugitive ex-member of the Weather Underground. For obscure reasons Limbaugh also tries to play Othello in blackface, in a star-studded production featuring Garrison Keillor, directed by Spalding Gray. Things go predictably to hell. Varon's in full command of his characters; the voices are sharp, if not perfect; and his timing is hard to beat. But he and Limbaugh are both visibly older. Varon's point in 1994 was that Limbaugh had upended the whole idea of satire -- he'd turned a traditional weapon of the underprivileged into a tool of power, and the last 10 years have only shown how potent that strategy can be. Limbaugh was pretty much on his own in 1994; lately his talk-radio spawn have probably helped a) elect a new governor in California, and b) re-elect a president. Depressing. Through Feb. 20 at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Tickets are $15-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org. (Michael Scott Moore) Reviewed Dec. 15, 2004.

Also Playing

Are We Almost There?
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Beach Blanket Babylon
Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

Beckett/Ionesco
Off-Market Studio, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 896-6477, www.cafearts.com.

Beyond Therapy
Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 433-3040.

Grease
Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 512-7770.

Hilda
Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 777-2800.

"The Institute for Relativity Studies: Orientation"
Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St. (at York), 647-2822.

Italian.Queer.Dangerous
Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission (at 11th St.), 554-0402, www.jonsimsctr.org.

Moky's Life 101
Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Geary) (Suite 601), 989-0023.

Oklahoma!
Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth St.), 512-7770.

Princess Bride: The Play
Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

Rescue and Recovery
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

So in Love: The Songs of Cole Porter
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org.

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Bldg. D (Marina & Buchanan), 441-8822.

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