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Winter Arts: Theater 

Wednesday, Jan 7 2015
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Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical

Fans of the Cockettes, San Francisco's gender-twisting drag group from the '70s, have long rejoiced in the Thrillpeddlers, who've resuscitated shows such as Hot Greeks and Pearls Over Shanghai. Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical supplies more fodder for those fanboys, -girls, and -in-betweens while also reaching out to the Cockettes' natural allies, disco queens. Former Cockette Sylvester, of "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" fame, was the queen of disco in every sense of the term, and this musical brings the San Francisco icon's story to the stage. It's written and performed by Anthony Wayne, who's a Broadway performer (Pippin, Anything Goes) — a rare treat for the grand and sizable Brava Theater, which usually hosts more indie, local troupes. The show explores Sylvester's music from its gospel roots in his childhood Pentecostal church, through its blues and jazz influences, and into its rousing, glitzy disco beats. But it also touches on his trailblazing work as an AIDS/HIV activist (his royalties still benefit local AIDS charities) and the daily bravery of unapologetically, joyfully being who he was — of androgynous voice and looks, though he rejected the term drag queen — when few could accept it. Expect to watch, and come out, dancing.

Feb. 11-March 1, Brava Theater Center, brava.org.

Satyr Night Fever

The new year is the time of rebirth, so we're thrilled to announce the return of SF Theater Pub, which has scaled back barroom theater performances as of late, to new local bars. The first of many monthly shows — Satyr Night Fever, written by Annette Roman and Bryant Turnage, and directed by Greg Young — follows a satyr unlucky in love.

Jan. 17, The Hall; Jan. 19 and Jan. 26, PianoFight, sftheaterpub.wordpress.com.

The Cable Car Nymphomaniac

The new year is also the time of regular ol' births, so we're excited to welcome FOGG Theatre to the local scene. Its inaugural show, though, travels to the past: the 1970 San Francisco cable-car sex scandal. It's a musical, naturally, but don't dance along too much — lest you too hit your head and become a litigious nymphomaniac.

Jan. 17-31, Z Below, foggtheatre.org.

The Lyons

With this black comedy, the Aurora once again proves it's the place to see contemporary plays that just might be the next great American dramas. This bitingly comic Broadway hit from Nicky Silver centers on Rita (Ellen Ratner), the matriarch of a family in crisis. When the pleasantries die, the barbs fly, and you just might see a family you recognize.

Jan. 30-March 1, Aurora Theatre, auroratheatre.org.

Destination Home: An Evening of Short Works

Ragged Wing Ensemble always centers its seasons on a theme, and its 2015 season, "Homing," could hardly be more appropriate: After being nomadic for many years, the company recently built a new venue in downtown Oakland, the Flight Deck. This show is a group of short plays by company stalwarts Addie Ulrey, Anthony Clarvoe, and Cecilia Palmtag.

Mar. 20-April 4, Flight Deck, raggedwing.org.

Heart Shaped Nebula

For its 2015 season, Shotgun Players will produce only plays by women, though that's not the company's explicit mission, to help bring attention to gross inequities in contemporary theater. This magical-realist play, written by local writer Marisela Treviño Orta and directed by rising star Desdemona Chiang, is the most exciting of the lineup; it begins as a mourning ritual but soon takes a sharp, mysterious turn.

May-June, Ashby Stage, shotgunplayers.org.

Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation

Having imported the Elevator Repair Service troupe in the fall, and now bringing the Wooster Group to San Francisco, Z Space is establishing itself as the place to go for local theatergoers with a cosmopolitan bent and daring aesthetic. This show, which features Frances McDormand and Elizabeth LeCompte, among others, is based on a recording made by Shaker women in rural Maine in 1976.

Feb. 5-8, Z Space, zspace.org.

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Lily Janiak

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