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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Aug 11 2010

Obscura. Both theater arts and the art of magic involve suspension of disbelief, but in different ways. We go to the theater to find truth while actors pretend to be people they're not; we go to a magic show to be fooled by real people pretending to do things that defy the laws of physics. When the two find common ground, it can work very well. Obscura is the third collaboration between magician Christian Cagigal and Exit Theatre to produce "strange little magic shows" — and it's turning into a sly San Francisco tradition. A one-man show in an intimate cafe, Obscura presents a collection of mildly creepy campfire tales and illustrates them through sleight of hand. The stories and tricks aren't all equally strong, but Cagigal is a charismatic storyteller and the show is nimble under his care. The set is surprisingly evocative for such a minimalist venue, and the use of a music box to segue between stories is inspired. It's not profound, it's not hilarious — but Obscura makes for a diverting evening. Through Aug. 14 at Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Mason), S.F. $15–$25; 673-3847 or (Benjamin Wachs) Reviewed July 28.

Shopping! The Musical. Some theater types want to be Hamlet; others want to be Liza Minnelli. The smiling, hardworking performers in this musical revue definitely fall into the latter category. Lyricist-composer Morris Bobrow uses his infectious, irreverent humor to great effect as he pays homage to the highs and lows of our compellingly crass commercial culture. He uses the small, cramped theater in a straightforward manner — four center-stage stools and an amusing backdrop provide the set. The accomplished accompanist Ben Keim keeps things lively on one side of the stage behind an upright piano. The actors lead us through songs that bring to mind Jerry Seinfeld's sharp observations on mundane modern life: "Shopping in Style" extols the virtues of Costco, and "Serious Shopping" imagines a man trying to buy lettuce from a riotously over-the-top grocery cult. The musical runs just over an hour, yet it still has a few rough spots. The midshow sketch "Checking Out" gives us a limp comedic premise that we've seen before on subpar sitcoms, and the piece "5 & 10" is a mix of awkward nostalgia and pitch problems. Nevertheless, this is a clever collection of tunes performed with an unabashedly cheesy enthusiasm that would make Liza proud. Open-ended run at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. $25-$29; 800-838-3006 or (Frank Wortham) Reviewed June 14, 2006.

Abigail: Salem Witch Trials – The Rock Opera: Original songs. Thursdays, 9 p.m. Continues through Sept. 23. $10. Temple, 540 Howard (at First St.), 978-9942.

Afrosolo Arts Festival 17: Multidisciplinary arts festival presented by the AfroSolo Theatre Company. See site for schedule. Through Oct. 15. Multiple Bay Area locations, multiple Bay Area locations.

Agnes the Barbarian: Produced by Thunderbird Theatre Company. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 14. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Big City Improv: Actors take audience suggestions and create comedy from nothing. Fridays, 10 p.m. $15-$20. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

City Solo: Solo theater performances by Bay Area stars. Sundays. Continues through Aug. 22. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.

Divalicious: Leanne Borghesi takes on legendary divas. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 22. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Don't Ask: Presented by New Conservatory Theatre Center. Starting Aug. 13. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 20. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

The Fantasticks: Presented by SF Playhouse. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Sept. 4. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

In a World...: Blockbuster-based improv theater with the Un-Scripted Theater Company. Through Aug. 28. $10-$20. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.

Love, Chaos and Couture: All Dressed Up with Someplace to Go: The latest by Teatro ZinZanni, starring Liliane Montevecchi and Frank Ferrante. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 15. $117-$145. 438-2668. Pier 29, Embarcadero (at Battery), 438-2668.

Monday Night Marsh: On select Mondays a different lineup of musicians, actors, performance artists, and others takes the stage at this regular event that's hosted local celebs like Josh Kornbluth and Marga Gomez in the past; see for a lineup of future shows. Mondays. $7. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Much Ado About Nothing: Presented by Woman's Will in parks throughout the Bay Area. Through Aug. 29. Multiple Bay Area locations.

Nymph O'Mania: Presented by Wily West Productions. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 14. Stage Werx, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 730-3433.

Party of 2: The New Mating Musical: Bobrow Productions. Starting Aug. 15. Sundays. Continues through Sept. 12. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Through Dec. 19. $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

Posibilidad, or the Death of the Worker: The latest by the San Francisco Mime Troupe plays in venues throughout the Bay Area. Through Sept. 19. free. Multiple Bay Area locations.

The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo show. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 25. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

The San Francisco Improv Festival: Multiple events; two featuring SNL star Tim Meadows. Aug. 12-21. varies. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson (at Front), 788-7469.

Sex Tapes for Seniors: Presented by STFS Productions. Through Aug. 22, 8 p.m. $20-$40. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.

Show and Tell: Symmetry Theatre Company. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 22. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

A Streetcar Named Desire: Directed by Rebecca Longworth. Through Aug. 28. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747.

This Is All I Need: Presented by Mugwumpin. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. $15-$30. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), 621-7978.

This World Is Good: Presented by Sleepwalkers Theatre. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Aug. 28. $20. The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Post), 989-0023.

Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding: Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, 7 p.m. $88.50-$115.50. Swiss Louis Restaurant at Pier 39, 2 Beach (at Embarcadero), 421-2913.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Presented by San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 19. Multiple Bay Area locations.


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