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Our critics weigh in on local theater

Wednesday, Apr 6 2011

Ruined. According to Berkeley's Rep's press release, Lynn Nottage's play is an "intense and important tale" about "important issues," and "you'd better listen." The script won a Pulitzer, a Drama Desk Award, an Obie, and a dozen other honors. It's about something devastating, sobering, and true — the systematic and brutal rape of women in the Congo. But, just because it's about an important subject doesn't make it great theater. The set, by Clint Ramos, is beautiful: a colorful, ramshackle brothel tucked away like an oasis amid a brutal civil war. The portrayals of the women seeking food, shelter, and work (prostitution) and the volatile soldiers seeking booze, comfort, and womanly entertainment feel grounded and authentic. And, the live music, performed by Broken Chord (Daniel Baker and Aaron Meicht), brings a welcome lightheartedness to the menacing mood. These positive elements don't make up for an overall feeling of disconnection. Liesl Tommy's direction feels more presentational and heavy-handed than personal and heartfelt, as if it's saying, "You need to care and feel about this" when it ultimately fails to deliver as emotionally connected theater. Through April 10 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. $29-$73; 510-647-2949 or (Nathaniel Eaton) Reviewed March 23.

40 Pounds in 12 Weeks: A Love Story: Pidge Mead's solo performance about weight loss, body issues, parental relationships, and the dynamics of friendship. Saturdays. Continues through April 30. $15-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

7 Sins ... One More Time!: Solo performance by comedian James Judd. Fridays-Sundays. Continues through April 10. $24.81-$40. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Beach Blanket Babylon: Steve Silver's musical revue spoofs pop culture with extravagant costumes. Wednesdays-Sundays. $25-$130. Club Fugazi, 678 Green (at Powell), 421-4222.

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.

The Business: A Comedy Show: Wednesdays, 8 p.m. $5. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

The Busy World Is Hushed: Story of a woman minister and her troubled relationship with her gay son. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 1. $24-$36. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), 861-8972.

Geezer: Geoff Hoyle's solo performance about what it's like to grow old. Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays; Wed., April 20; Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through May 1. $20-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

Into the Clear Blue Sky: Sleepwalkers Theatre's second play in its "apocalypse trilogy." Starting April 7. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 30. $15-$17. The Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (at Post), 989-0023.

Three Plays by Will Eno: Cutting Ball Theater stages three short plays by Will Eno. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 10. $15-$50. Exit Theatre on Taylor, 277 Taylor (at Ellis), 673-3847.

Loveland: Solo show by Ann Randolph. Fridays, Saturdays; Sundays. Continues through May 8. $20-$100. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd St.), 826-5750.

M. Butterfly: David Henry Hwang's play. Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through April 16. $20-$28. Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough (at Bush).

Monday Night ForePlays: Spring EGGstravaganza: PianoFight series features sketch comedy written, produced, and performed by women. Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 25. $15-$30. Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987.

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.

Obscura: A Magic Show: Christian Cagigal's one-person narrative involving magic and audience participation. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through April 16. $15-$25. Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy (at Taylor), 673-3847.

Pearls over Shanghai: Thrillpeddlers brings back the Cockettes. Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through April 9. $30. The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), 377-4202.

Secret Improv Society: Underground improvisational theater. Saturdays, 10 p.m. $15. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Shopping! The Musical: Songs and sketches about shopping. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. $23-$29. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 882-9100.

Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven: Satire on race written by Young Jean Lee. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 30. $15-$25. The Thick House, 1695 18th St. (at Arkansas), 401-8081.

Suzanne Westenhoefer: Semi-Sweet: Solo comedy performance. April 8-9. $30-$35. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), 863-7576.

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.

Too Caliente to Handle: At Teatro ZinZanni, a sister and brother lead a rebellion in an attempt to live out their dreams in show business. Thursdays-Sundays; Wed., April 27; Wed., May 11; Tue., May 17; Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays; Through June 19. Continues through June 12. $91-$186. Teatro ZinZanni, Piers 27 and 29 (Embarcadero and Battery), 438-2668.

Twelfth Night: Production of the African-American Shakespeare Company. Saturdays, Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1. $15-$30. African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton (at Webster), 922-2049.

Upper Cut Improv Showcase: Improv and sketch comedy. Fridays, 7 p.m. $5. San Francisco Comedy College, 414 Mason (at Geary), 921-2051.

Wirehead: New play by Benjamin/Brown. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through April 23. $40-$50. SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter (at Powell), 677-9596.


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