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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Sep 29 2010

In the Wound.After last year's fantastic postapocalyptic, outdoor version of Animal Farm, director and writer Jon Tracy and Shotgun Players return with an adaptation of The Iliad. Tracy's modern take focuses on Odysseus' attempt to avoid fighting in the Trojan War by pretending to be insane. But, of course, he does join the fight, and the battle scenes are quite thrilling. These sequences (choreographed beautifully by Dave Maier) feature a cast of more than 25, dressed like Road Warrior samurai and fighting with swords, crutches, and drumsticks. This is underscored by battlefield nurses pounding Japanese kodo-style drums high atop lookout towers. When the drama becomes too heavy, it's relieved by beautiful moments such as Odysseus' son throwing elegant paper-plane letters to his father, and soldiers suffering from PTSD seeking solace in therapy. As Agamemnon, Michael Torres steals the show, injecting dark humor into the endless war with nuggets like, "It's like you pooped sadness in a bag and delivered it to my party." Shotgun is doing an inspired service updating classics such as Animal Farm and its rock 'n' roll rendition of Beowulf. Now it adds The Iliad to that mix, and plans to offer Part Two in December. Through Oct. 3 at John Hinkel Park, 41 Somerset (at Southampton), Berkeley. Free-$10; 510-841-6500 or (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed Sept. 22.

Jerry Springer, the Opera. For all the camp and blasphemy, the West Coast premiere of Jerry Springer, the Opera, inspires more yawning than chair-throwing. Maybe it's because this is San Francisco, but shock value alone does not an operatic farce make, and there's only so much musical profanity you can take before it becomes tiresome. Directed by M. Graham Smith, with book and lyrics by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, the two-and-a-half-hour parody goes for the easy zingers, caricaturing the trailer-trash fame whores who make up the show's guests and audience. This does have a certain allure if you're in the mood, but then they had to ruin it by making it earnest. In Acts II and III, Jerry literally hears the music and starts to sympathize with the diaper-clad fetishists and dancing Ku Klux Klansmen he despises, but not before going to Hell and hosting an intervention between Jesus and Satan. While the vocal talent is impressive, the songs themselves are only catchy because of the sheer repetition and the novelty of such taboo topics as getting pissed on, sung in high falsetto. In short, go for the dick jokes, but don't stay for the attempted force-feeding of moral complexity. Through Oct. 16 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Mission), S.F. $25-$36; 863-7576 or (Anna Pulley) Reviewed Sept. 22.

Trouble in Mind. Had she not refused to change its title and its ending, Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind, from 1955, would have been the first play by a black woman produced on Broadway. That might seem a bitter irony, given what it's about: an interracial theater company struggling to stage a white-liberal vision of progressivism during the first halting steps of the civil rights movement. More exactly, it's about one actress (Margo Hall) with the dubious opportunity to become the first black leading lady on Broadway. And so this urgent cultural critique has every right to toss humor and subtlety out the window; the great delight is that it doesn't. Emboldened by Robin Stanton's sensitive and only just barely strident direction, Hall and her eight castmates — Rhonnie Washington in particular — deliver a testimony of inequality that is not just devastating but also devastatingly funny. Childress didn't compromise, so Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun beat her to the history books, but as this production reminds us, Trouble in Mind was built to stand the test of time. Through Oct. 3 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $34-$55; 510-843-4822 or (Jonathan Kiefer) Reviewed Sept. 8.

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

"The Autumn LaughtHER Factor": All-woman sketch comedy. Through Oct. 25, 8 p.m. $20. Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission (at Fifth St.), 336-0513.

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.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Tennessee Williams play held over through Oct. 22. 8 p.m. $26-$40. Actors Theatre San Francisco, 855 Bush (at Taylor), 345-1287.

Hail Caesar!: Teatro ZinZanni's new production. Through Oct. 31. $117-$145. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero and Battery), 438-2668.

IPH ...: African-American Shakespeare Company production. Oct. 2-16. $15-$35. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St. (at York), 641-7657.

Kiss of Blood: Thrillpeddlers' annual Shocktoberfest lineup including Grand Guignol terror plays Kiss of Blood, Lips of the Damned, and The Empress of Colma. Sept. 30-Nov. 19. $25-$35. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

KML Holds the Mayo: Live sketch comedy. Through Oct. 3, 8 p.m. $15-$20. Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 820-3320.

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.

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

The Real Americans: Dan Hoyle's solo show. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 6. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

The Secretaries: A play depicting chainsaw-wielding secretaries in a Pacific Northwest lumber mill. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. $10-$30. Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), 776-1747.

The Shining: Live: Starting Oct. 1. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. $20. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Fridays, Saturdays. $23-$29. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

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.

About The Authors

Keith Bowers

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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