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Cirque du Soleil's Varekai whisks you away to an extraordinary world where anything is possible. In the Romany language -- the language of the Gypsies -- "varekai" means "wherever," and this fantastic journey pays tribute to the wandering spirits who began the circus tradition, roaming entertainers whose travels might take them anywhere. A solitary young man parachutes into a magic forest, where he meets fantastic creatures and embarks on an adventure full of extraordinary and whimsical experiences. As the show's hero explores the forest, you'll travel with him to witness high-flying aerial acts, astounding acrobatics, hilarious clowns and the Icarian games: an ancient circus art that presents a thrilling display of human juggling as the performers catapult through the air and make unbelievable landings on their partners. This fantastical adventure spectacle takes place at Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena.
Morris Bobrow, the award-winning creator of Shopping! The Musical, the longest-running original show in San Francisco history, is serving up yet another tasty musical revue. This one's all about food, glorious food -- with a mix of songs and sketches about eating habits and hang-ups, trendy restaurants and food trucks, cooking quirks, menu mania and much, much more. Winner of multiple San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Awards for outstanding music and lyrics, Bobrow also created the recent Party of 2 -- The Mating Musical.
Recently one of the hottest tickets on Broadway and a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, Other Desert Cities brings dysfunctional family drama to new heights. Christmas is always somewhat surreal in Palm Springs. It's made even more so this year when Brooke Wyeth returns home after a long absence to present her conservative parents with a tell-all confessional novel that exposes a pivotal event in their family history. Now, old wounds are reopened, childhood memories are tested and the Wyeth clan learns that some secrets can't stay buried forever in this play by Jon Robin Baitz.
Every family is dysfunctional in its own delightful way, as depicted in this series of six short world-premiere comedies from the LGBTQ-focused Left Coast Theatre Company. This smart and insightful collection features the work of both local and national playwrights and includes intriguing titles like Who Are These People? and Motherly Advice. Left Coast are the folks who brought you the successful Eat My Shorts series, and they're staging #WTFamily at San Francisco's Shelton Theater in the hot and happening Union Square district.
A fiery preacher loses her iron grip on her congregation when her past comes -- literally -- in through the front door in Amen Corner, James Baldwin's classic play about belief and family. It's been said that every word Baldwin ever wrote was a "a call to arms and a cry of the heart," and it's impossible not to get swept up in the drama (and gospel music) emanating from this Harlem storefront tabernacle. When her wayward jazzman husband Luke returns after many years, pastor Margaret's righteous reputation seriously suffers. Things get worse when son David wants to play jazz like his father and skip his mother's "straight and narrow" path. Following Amen Corner's 2013 revival at London's National Theatre, Black Repertory Group Theater stages an exciting, music-filled production of this powerful play from an American master.
Synonymous with political protest, Antigone is Sophocles' masterpiece about tyrannical power and civil disobedience. When a new king comes to power in a city devastated by civil war, he demands that the body of a rebel attacker be left to rot in the streets. Anybody who defies him risks death. But the dead soldier's outraged sister, consumed with grief, is determined to give her brother proper burial rites. As these two monumental wills collide, we learn that love can be just as dangerous as war. Bay Area actress Madeline H.D. Brown takes the title role in this unique staging that uses a cappella music and movement to bring you into this world.
Dubbed a "masterful raconteur" by The Advocate, comic monologist Ben Rimalower is back with a blockbuster double feature of his hit solo comedy Patti Issues and his newest one-man show, Bad With Money. The acclaimed Patti Issues relates how Rimalower found solace in the gorgeous voice and larger-than-life personality of Broadway legend Patti LuPone as a gay kid growing up with family issues. His latest comic outing offers his self-deprecating take on his various addictions, the most serious of which is the oft-hidden drama of being in debt.
Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon is the world's longest-running musical revue. Since 1974, this San Francisco institution has followed Snow White on a musical comedy quest around the world, where she runs into satirically portrayed pop culture and political celebrities, an impressive array of gigantic hats and one show-stopping musical number after another. Because the show is constantly updated with new costumes, hats and characters, it rewards repeat visits. Among the familiar faces you might see spoofed in Beach Blanket's latest incarnation: Lady Gaga, Barack and Michelle Obama, the cast of Glee, Kate Middleton and Adele. Even after nearly 40 years, Beach Blanket Babylon remains one of San Francisco's wildest evenings of live entertainment.
Get your dramatic ducks in a row with a 3-show subscription (for first-time subscribers only) to the upcoming season at the Tony-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre, one of the most innovative companies in the country. Your package begins with An Audience With Meow Meow, a bravura performance by groundbreaking singer-comedienne Meow Meow, who offers electrifying songs, a blowtorch wit and divine mayhem in equal measures. Next on your subscription bill, X's and O's (A Gridiron Love Story) is an intriguing docudrama that exposes the passion and the pain behind football's pervasive traumatic brain injuries. Based on actual interviews with football players and their families and fans, this world premiere will make you see America's favorite game in a whole new light. Finally, you'll thrill to the beat of One Man, Two Guvnors, a swingin' English farce inspired by A Servant of Two Masters wherein a modern-day British dolt with two jobs struggles to juggle his dual bosses. Backed by a live band that swerves between rockabilly and Beatles-esque pop, this topsy-turvy ride through loony love triangles and mistaken identities caps your subscription off with a delectable mish-mash of splendid comedy, pantomime and music-hall-style revue.
A hilarious and sexy world-premiere adaptation of the Roman comedy, The Braggart Soldier, or Major Blowhard is full of jokes and clever hijinks. A prolific pillar of the stage of yore, playwright Plautus riffed on a slew of archetypal Greek characters in his wildly popular comedies. The cunning slave and the lascivious old man frequent his 20 surviving plays as well as the pompous military man, which Custom Made Theatre takes on in The Braggart Soldier, or Major Blowhard. Updated for the 21st century, this irreverent play retains the low-brow humor of Plautus' era and mixes it with classic characters and situations you'll recognize from Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Charlie Chaplin's films and 30 Rock. It's a 70-minute laugh fest at San Francisco's Gough Street Playhouse.
Get thee forthwith to Pacifica Spindrift Players Theatre's Muriel Watkin Performing Space to witness three of the wittiest men around as they take to the stage for this production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This hilarious trio of performers takes on the seemingly impossible challenge of performing the nuts 'n' bolts of each of Shakespeare's 37 plays in just 97 minutes. People of all ages will be pulled in by the cheeky, madcap comedy and still -- miraculously -- by show's end, you'll have a general idea of the plot of every comedy, tragedy and historical work written by the English language's greatest writer. A huge hit in London, it was the West End's longest-running comedy, playing the Criterion Theatre for nine years.
The long-running Broadway hit Deathtrap has been slaying audiences for years with its mix of laughs and edge-of-the-seat suspense, and now it's coming to the North Bay's Spreckels Performing Arts Center. Written by Ira Levin (The Stepford Wives, Rosemary's Baby), it's the story of Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful playwright struggling to overcome a "dry" spell that has resulted in a string of failures and a shortage of funds. Fortuitously, he receives a script from a student at one of his college seminars and instantly sees a potential Broadway hit. Once the two start collaborating, suspense mounts steadily as the plot begins to twist and turn with devilish cleverness, and with such an abundance of thrills and laughter that you'll be enthralled until the show's final, startling moments. Nominated for a Tony in its original run, and recently revived on Broadway, Levin's ingeniously plotted thriller keeps the scares and surprises coming 'til the final curtain.
A favorite across the country, The Dinner Detective serves up a tasty whodunit along with a seated four-course dinner. And since this popular comic murder mystery is set in the present day, you'll never know whether someone at your table is one of the talented cast of improvisers. In fact, everyone's a suspect, including you. The event starts out with a reception featuring tray-passed hors d'oeuvres, followed by the meal, which includes salad, an entree and dessert. Between courses you can expect plenty of murder, mayhem and hidden clues coming to light as you puzzle through the crime. The top sleuth even wins a prize package at the end of the evening -- not to mention serious bragging rights.
A dazzling visual experience that blends puppetry, technology and dance, DiNO-Light uses electroluminescent (which is to say: glow-in-the-dark) creatures to tell an original tale of a friendly dinosaur and his journey through a dark world filled with astonishing creatures. Combining wordless storytelling with modern and classical music, plus ingenious technology, DiNO-Light is the type of family show that must be seen to be believed. There is, after all, a glow-in-the-dark, dino-on-dino "swords of light" duel at one point ... which is arguably the coolest thing most kids could ever hope to see. The entire prehistoric spectacle takes place in Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning writer of American Beauty and the hit HBO series Six Feet Under and True Blood, penned this audacious comedy revolving around a quintet of reluctant bridesmaids at a lavish Tennessee wedding reception. Taking refuge in an upstairs bedroom, each of the women is focused on her own issue playing out at the party below, but over the course of the day they learn that despite their many differences, they all share a common bond that runs much deeper than their identical outfits. See the drama unfold at Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley.
At the start of this suspenseful drama, Dennis Sullivan's film about a gay teen's suicide has just won an Oscar. As Sullivan launches into his acceptance speech, he dedicates his award to his late friend who inspired the film -- and name-drops the man who he believes drove his friend to suicide: Ethan Rice. Watching the broadcast, Rice is shocked to hear his name used in connection with the death of a former classmate he can barely remember. The lives of these two men quickly become tangled in the public eye as they see if revenge is really so sweet. Timely, touching and empathetic, catch the 2013 GLAAD Media Award-winning From White Plains at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.
Sometimes the most powerful stories can be told through only one medium. That's the case with Girl of Diamond Mountain, a mixed-media show that combines drama and projected visuals with a 14-song cycle. It follows the healing journey of an innocent child from a period of abuse and neglect, to a wild young adult haunted by shame, finally to a state of peace found through love and spiritual growth. Girl of Diamond Mountain was created and performed by New York composer Carman Moore and noted Danish actress and songwriter Lotte Arnsbjerg.
Some men go to war with a lucky rabbit's foot, others a rosary -- David Kleinberg went into battle lugging a typewriter. Hey, Hey, LBJ! is his firsthand account of what he saw and wrote as an army combat correspondent in Vietnam. In 1966, Kleinberg arrives in Southeast Asia a supporter of the war, but each passing day brings more doubt, death and displays of apocalyptic violence. Kleinberg, who went on to two celebrated careers after the war -- the first as an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, the second as a talented stand-up comedian -- brings an incredible energy and authenticity to what The Washington Post called a "polished and moving a piece of theater." Though the war is now decades in the past, its lessons haunt the nation today. Equally haunting is this gripping solo show at The Marsh Upstairs Studio Theater.
Cher, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Eartha Kitt, Bette Davis, Stevie Nicks or Diana Ross -- you never quite know who's going to show up when vocal/visual impersonator Jimmy James opens his mouth. First gaining fame for his spot-on tribute to Marilyn Monroe, James has blossomed into one of the most versatile performers on the planet, not only acting like icons of stage and screen, but singing like them, too. In addition to his impressions, James is blessed with an amazing voice all his own, most recently showcased in the Billboard-charting single "Fashionista." Now this Glammy Award-winning phenom makes a rare San Francisco appearance for this one-night-only engagement at Oasis.
On the second anniversary of her young son's disappearance, a confused and grieving mother struggles to make sense of the action -- or inaction -- of her husband, the detective assigned to the case and the suspicious man she keeps seeing in the grocery store. So she replays the day her 8-year-old went missing, searching for the key piece of the puzzle that always seems to be just beyond her grasp. This rolling world premiere, a part of the National New Play Network series, has already garnered awards for its playwright Lauren Yee, and comes to the Tides Theater courtesy of the San Francisco Playhouse.
Thrillpeddlers' glitzy, globe-hopping musical revues have already whisked audiences away to Shanghai (Pearls Over Shanghai) and Hollywood (Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma). Now San Francisco's most outrageous theater company is booking you on a one-way trip to the City of Light in Jewels of Paris, its latest celebration of song and spectacle at the Hypnodrome. Inspired by the artistic revolution that erupted in Paris nearly a century ago, Jewels of Paris is a sassy, saucy trip through time that revels in the artistic, social and sexual changes of the era -- as seen through the eyes of Parisian luminaries like Picasso, Pierrot, Cocteau, Josephine Baker and even Marie Antoinette. Playful sketches, fabulous costumes, sexy dancing and original songs combine in this fun-filled adult celebration that offers a window to viewing life in ever-changing San Francisco, lovingly referred to as the "Paris of the West."
It's business-as-usual when great tragedians -- Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellan, Paul Scofield -- try their hand at King Lear, but it's unheard of for a great clown to tackle Shakespeare's masterpiece ... until now. With a career spanning decades, Geoff Hoyle is one of the nation's most cherished and inventive masters of clowning. He trained under the "Father of French Mime" Etienne Decroux in Paris, originated the role of "Zazu" in Lion King on Broadway, and has appeared in Cirque Du Soleil, The Pickle Family Circus and Teatro Zinzanni. But all that training was a prelude to Lear's Shadow. Experience King Lear like you never have before as the Jester, recently unemployed, tells his side to Shakespeare's most tragic, cosmic and human of stories in this moving solo performance.
A West Indian immigrant, a lesbian and a Polish man walk into a domestic drama in Let There Be Love, an intimate new work by celebrated UK playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, who's been called "one of Britain's most talented and distinctive writers" (WYPR). The drama centers around Alfred, a cantankerous and aging West Indian immigrant living in London who's managed to alienate all those around him -- including his equally headstrong lesbian daughter. But when an idealistic young Polish caregiver is assigned to look after him, Alfred experiences a powerful reckoning with his past. Backdropped by sentimental jazz standards (Alfred's favorite) and featuring a tour de force performance by stage and screen star Carl Lumbly (Cagney & Lacey, Alias), Let There Be Love, presented at A.C.T.'s Geary Theater, explores the unrelenting grip of memory, regret and forgiveness -- and what can happen when we welcome new possibilities.
Mirandolina might be one of theater's greatest flirts. She's the main character in The Mistress of the Inn, a 1753 comedy by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni and she, of course, wants to conquer the one man who doesn't want her back. You can find out if she succeeds in a fresh new adaptation at Lester Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. With madcap battles of the sexes, Mirandolina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn is a play about love, seduction and a woman trying to run a business in a man's world.
Ivan Turgenev's classic Russian comedy of manners A Month in the Country gets an Irish lilt, thanks to an adaptation by Tony-winning dramatist Brian Friel. The restless Natalya (a role famously played by the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Helen Mirren and Taylor Schilling) is trapped between a frustrating marriage and the affections of her closest friend. In the heat of the summer sun, she finds herself falling obsessively in love with her son's young tutor, but her beautiful 17-year old ward Vera can't help but compete for the boy's affections. As Natalya risks everything she has to position herself in between the two, the destructive force of passion ripples through the rest of the estate. Rich in texture and tone with complex, fascinating characters, A Month in the Country reflects our nature to desire what we can't have. The romantic entanglement takes place at Ross' Barn Theatre.
Hailed as "brilliant" by Roseanne Barr and "genius" by tastemaker Perez Hilton, Nadya Ginsburg brings her hit solo show Madonnalogues to Oasis in San Francisco for a night of her trademark songs and celebrity skewering. Ginsburg mixes offbeat original characters with celebrity impressions, including pop divas Lady Gaga and Madonna. Ginsburg got her start in the New York alternative comedy scene at venues such as Catch A Rising Star and Caroline's Comedy Club, then was brought to Los Angeles by Warner Brothers to be a series regular on the sketch comedy series HYPE. Among her many other credits, Ginsburg has worked with Parker Posey in the feature film Adam & Steve, and appeared on The Today Show (her appearance won MSNBC's "Moment Of The Week" viewer poll by a landslide), the CBS show Partners and RuPaul's Drag Race as a celebrity guest comedy judge. Don't miss the woman of a thousand voices at this special one-night-only performance at the Oasis.
Make the 2014-2015 theater season full of discovery, danger and delight by seeing any three of New Conservatory Theatre Center's eight exciting upcoming shows. Selections include Cock, wunderkind playwright Mike Bartlett's elegant modern love triangle that looks at the aftermath when one half of a gay couple falls in love with a woman. Or you might try the over-the-top hybrid of Hollywood glamour and Greek tragedy in Die, Mommie, Die!, Charles Busch's hilarious mixture of whodunits, double-crossings and suspenseful twists. Dead Poets Society meets Romeo & Juliet in Shakespeare's R&J, a play-within-a-play written by Joe Calarco about what happens when four school boys secretly reenact the timeless story of forbidden love. The Tony-winning musical Avenue Q is back by popular demand to prove once again that puppets can have a very adult side, and in Harbor, all hell breaks loose when 15-year-old Lottie and her ne'er-do-well mother drop in unannounced at the beautiful Sag Harbor home of Kevin and his young husband, Ted. Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz brings dysfunctional family drama to new heights in a story that was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer. Timely, touching and empathetic, the 2013 GLAAD Media Award-winning From White Plains explores the far-reaching fallout of bullying and questions if forgiveness is possible. And wrapping up the season, Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a bawdy historical comedy-drama that brings the battle of the sexes to the stage. Hey, we didn't say choosing three from this lineup was going to be easy.
From their electrifying performances on The Ed Sullivan Show to the psychedelic pop experimentations of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- all of the excitement and unforgettable music of a live Beatles show is brought to life in Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. With authentic costumes, multimedia effects and note-perfect live renditions of classic Beatles songs such as "Can't Buy Me Love," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be," Rain is the biggest sensation since John, Paul, George and Ringo themselves first set foot on American soil. These spectacular musicians have been together as a band longer than the originals and have won international acclaim for their uncanny reproduction of the Fab Four. They've toured across the globe with a repertoire of more than 200 songs, including the most complex and challenging tunes that the Beatles recorded in the studio but never performed for a live audience.
For far too long, a shadowy cabal of donors and elitist administrators has controlled what is seen on stage in San Francisco. Their reign ends with ShortLived, the largest audience-judged theater competition in the nation. Now you get to decide which playwright ultimately succeeds in winning the $5,000 grand prize and month-long production run at PianoFight. Each show offers a sampler of bite-size brilliance from experienced playwrights, unknown up-and-comers and local indie theater companies. Your vote is key in determining who advances to the next round -- but be forewarned, if previous years are any indication, it's tough to pick a favorite from theses funny, serious, and always interesting shorts.
The close relationship of two sisters is disrupted when a strange drifter enters their lives in this Magic Theatre production written and directed by John Kolvenbach (Mrs. Whitney, Goldfish). Anna is the overprotective older sister who will do anything to make Lilly happy, including meddling in her relationships. Along with Anna's husband Malcolm, they retreat to their dead father's musty cabin in Cape Cod to reflect and relax. When Lilly brings home a charming, but dubious stranger, Anna leaps to her aid, whether her help is wanted or not. Sister Play paints a picture of loss and how those left behind try to fill the void.
It's The Seagull -- on steroids. In this contemporary, irreverent adaptation of the Anton Chekhov classic, the Russian writer's characters still philosophize on love, art and the pursuit of happiness, but this time it's with mad humor and music. Helen Hayes and Barrymore Award-winning playwright Aaron Posner (The Chosen) turns the original play's famous subtext into scenes and songs, calling Stupid F**king Bird "a rough-and-tumble meta-theatrical mash-up." There's a famous actress whose son, an aspiring theater director, is desperate to make a name for himself on his own, and his muse, the lovely Nina, who falls for his mother's lover. Presented by San Francisco Playhouse, Stupid F**king Bird mixes ambition, booze and sex into a heady (and hilarious) brew.
Eric Bogosian's breakthrough hit follows abrasive, egotistical radio-show host Barry Champlain, whose edgy, argumentative style has earned him national syndication. On the night before his big debut, Champlain -- fueled as always by coffee, cocaine and Jack Daniel's (in no particular order) -- is more outrageous than ever in response to his producer's fears of offending the sponsors. His verbal jousts with his unseen callers, who range from a white supremacist to a woman obsessed with her garbage disposal, are peppered with insights into his character from the people who know him. Experience in real time the radio broadcast that'll either raise Barry to the very top of his game or end it all in a blaze of glory (and ego) in this 30th anniversary production from Beverly Hills Playhouse of San Francisco starring Peter Allas (Seinfeld, The Sopranos).
Few scoundrels are as roguish, charming or hilarious as the titular character at the center of Tartuffe -- an impostor who insinuates himself into the home of the wealthy Orgon and his family, quickly throwing the entire household into chaos. As Orgon's infatuation with his guest and his phony piety grows, Tartuffe's deception threatens to turn downright destructive in this beloved comic masterpiece. Banned in Paris in 1664, Tartuffe is one of Moliere's best loved -- and most clever -- comedies, renowned for its provocative satire on religious hypocrisy. This Berkeley Rep production features a hypnotic performance from Steven Epp, winner of a Helen Hayes Award for his work in The Servant of Two Masters.
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in one hour. This innovative show is one of Chicago's biggest theatrical success stories. Created by Greg Allen, and written and performed by the Neo-Futurists, the original production in Chicago has been continuously running since the Reagan administration, and now San Francisco has its own sibling company performing at Stage Werx. The "menu" of plays is strung up on a clothesline, and the audience determines the order by yelling out which piece they want to see next. Every performance is a unique experience, and the Neo-Futurists are masters of creating funny, personal, abstract, political and poignant plays.
Best known for his hilariously inventive "hamboning" technique -- turning his entire body into a percussive instrument -- beloved Bay Area fool Unique Derique brings his fun holiday extravaganza, Fool La La, to The Marsh Upstairs Studio Theater in San Francisco. Whether he's riding a unicycle, juggling or creating infectious rhythms with his body, Unique Derique is one cool clown. Combining outrageous skits with his unique brand of physical comedy, Derique "leaves them laughing coast to coast" (The San Francisco Examiner). With TV appearances ranging from the Disney Channel to Showtime at the Apollo, Derique has entertained audiences of all ages. He's even shared the stage with such entertainers as The Temptations and Sammy Davis Jr.