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1996­97 Theatre Season

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Ralph Macchio learns "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," playing in the Best of Broadway Series at the Golden Gate Theater Nov 12­Dec 8.

By Kerry Reid

The big stories of this past theater season were about real estate rather than art. A.C.T. finally moved back into the Geary Theatre amid much pomp and circumstance, Brava! took over the former York Theater, A Traveling Jewish Theatre settled down at Project Artaud, and both the Asian-American Theatre Company and Climate Theatre gave up their spaces, the latter renamed Venue Nine and continuing to present live performances. It's too soon to tell what the dominant note this season will be, but, as always, there's enough happening to keep theater-lovers busy--and broke.

Companies & Groups

Actors Theatre
Actors Theatre kick-starts its season with Eric Bogosian's subUrbia, a blistering look at alienated post-teens hanging around a Quickie Mart. Their angst turns to active rage when a former classmate, now a big-time rock star, returns to town. Bogosian headlined last year's Solo Mio Festival and is well-known as the author and star of the movie Talk Radio. subUrbia played to sold-out houses at Washington's Lincoln Center Festival of New Plays in 1994, and has enjoyed successful runs in other cities.
Through Sep 28, Thur­Sat 8:00pm, Sun 7:00pm. $16­$18. 533 Sutter St., 296-9179.

Shlemiel the First

American Conservatory Theatre
After last season, which started with the critical acclaim and capacity houses for Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and peaked with the February gala re-opening of the Geary Theatre and The Tempest, what can A.C.T. do for an encore? Artistic director Carey Perloff has found an intriguing mix of old and new. The company will revive its holiday production of A Christmas Carol (Dec 1­26), and will also stage Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo (Oct 20­Nov 24), which, like Williams himself, seems to be enjoying renewed interest. The season starts with Shlemiel the First (Sep 12­Oct 13), the first musical to be produced at A.C.T. in seven years. This story of an ordinary guy who embarks on a journey to tell the world about the fools and wise men in his hometown features a live klezmer band. Another highlight is the return of Olympia Dukakis (who made such a splash two seasons ago with Hecuba) in a world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian's Singer's Boy (May 1­June 1).

These latter two productions demonstrate a welcome willingness on A.C.T.'s part to take a chance on new work. The company has also announced the commission of a new play by Octavio Solis (of Santos Y Santos fame), which is currently in the workshop stage. Chestnuts of the season are Kaufman and Ferber's The Royal Family (March 20­Apr 20), under the direction of the usually reliable Albert Takazauckas, and Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession (June 12­July 13). Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt (Jan 2­Feb 2) and Sophie Treadwell's proto-feminist The Machinal (Feb 6­Mar 9) round out a season a little more adventurous than past years.
$14­$47.50, Geary Theatre, 415 Geary St., 776-1999.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Berkeley Rep's season also represents a mix of old and new, tried and true. Shaw-lovers will be pleased that both sides of the Bay are presenting revivals this season. Berkeley has the jump on A.C.T., and will open its season with Heartbreak House (Sep 6­ Oct 25), under the direction of artistic director Sharon Ott. Certified hits include Terrence McNally's award-winning Love! Valour! Compassion! (Nov 1­Jan 3) and Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (May 16­July 6). The latter recounts the true stories of two extraordinary African-American sisters, and was nominated for three Tony Awards. Chicago director/ adapter wunderkind Mary Zimmerman brings her staging of the classic Buddhist tale, Journey to the West, to the Rep for its West Coast premiere
(Nov 29­Jan 19). Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics (Jan 10­Feb 7), Heather McDonald's An Almost Holy Picture (April 11­ May 9), and "the Scottish play"--Macbeth, not Trainspotting--(Feb 14­Apr 4) round out the season. $25­$39.
2025 Addison St., Berkeley, 510/845-4700.

Best of Broadway
If this summer's film remake of The Nutty Professor left you yearning for the real Jerry Lewis, head down to the Golden Gate Theatre to catch Dino's former partner in the hit revival of Damn Yankees (throught Oct 13). Jerry Lewis as the Devil--it had to happen. The season also includes the Royal National Theatre's production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel (Oct 16­Nov 10), Ralph "The Karate Kid" Macchio in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Nov 12­Dec 8) and former teen singing sensation Debbie Gibson as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (Dec 17­Jan 12), the first major production of this show since Barbra Streisand shot to fame in the 1964 original.
Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., 474-3800.

Brava! Theater Center
Brava! continues to provide a haven for work by women, with an emphasis on multicultural voices and work by young people. The highlight of last season was probably Cherrie Moraga's Watsonville, selected as a finalist by the Fund for New American Plays. Brava! also provides at least a temporary home for other companies, including Fifth Floor Productions' presentation of Howard Barker's Scenes From an Execution (through Sep 15). Kenn Watt, who recently directed Marisol for Eureka Theatre, directs this blackly comic, fictionalized examination of the fate of a woman painter, based loosely on Renaissance artist Artemesia Gentileschi. Culture Clash, the nation's premier Chicano/Latino comedy trio, will return for a new show, Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami (Sep 21­Oct 13). Directed by Roger Guenveur Smith, the show promises a collection of sketches and monologues depicting the polyglot world of Miami. $14­$16.
2789 24th St., 487-5401.

450 Geary Studio Theatre
Robert Anderson's classic about father/son conflict, I Never Sang for My Father, receives a joint production by Creatus and Genesius Theatre. The production features Dramalogue writer Dean Goodman and perennial local favorite Louis Parnell as the proud and headstrong father and son.
Sep 8­Oct 9, Mon­Wed 8:00pm, $15, Sun 2:00pm, $12, 450 Geary St., 626-9269.

Magic Theatre & MagicTOO
The Magic inaugurates both its regular season and its new MagicTOO series with Ghostlight Theatre Company's Hunting for Moby Dick (Sep 18­Oct 13). The new theatre collective uses ropes, bed sheets and bottles of Crystal Geyser to recreate Melville's classic morality tale at sea. The production won "Best of Show" at the Winnipeg Fringe Theater Festival last year. The MagicTOO series is designed to explore less traditional theater forms, and each show is developed in partnership with another performance group. The other shows in this season's series include the musical theatre company Overtone Industries' holiday show, It's a Pretty Good Life (Nov 20­Dec 22), Modus Ensemble's new work with Anne Bogart, Going, Going, Gone (May dates TBA) and Open Theatre's 1969 Terminal 1996 (July dates TBA), which received its premiere in 1969 and utilizes the acting techniques of co-creator Joe Chaikin. All shows $15.

The regular subscription series at the Magic includes the world premiere of Pieces of the Quilt (Oct 22­Nov 17), conceived originally by the Magic's busiest actor, Sean San Jose Blackman, as a tribute to his mother, who died of AIDS in 1992. The show is a collection of 16 short plays commissioned for this project and written by some of America's most celebrated playwrights, including Edward Albee, David Henry Hwang, Ntozake Shange and Lanford Wilson. The Names Project will provide panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt as scenic backdrop. David Mamet's The Cryptogram (Jan 14­Feb 19), arguably his finest work since the Pulitzer Prize­winning Glengarry Glen Ross, has the second slot in the regular season. Local poet Brighde Mullins' Topographical Eden will receive its world premiere (March 18­ Apr 13), and longtime Magic favorite Sam Shepard and Joe Chaikin (again!) will collaborate on When the World Was Green (Apr 15­May 11). The subscription season ends with Quincy Long's The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite (June 24­July 20).
$15­$21, Bldg D, Fort Mason Center, 441-8822.

Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theatre
The first show in the Marilyns' season is Peter Carlaftes' Closure (through Sep 28), in which an ex-con/rapist invades the lives of two sisters and unravels their secrets. Sounds well within the non-traditional tradition of MMMT.
Opens Sep 12, Thur­Sat 9:00pm, $12, 96 Lafayette St., 553-3040.

The Marsh
The Marsh's first show of the season is Diane Amos' autobiographical solo performance, Balancing Act (through Sep 21), in which Amos explores the joys and heartaches of growing up in a household with two lesbian mothers, one African-American, the other Jewish. Amos has been a stand-up comic and improv performer for years, and has also been seen in several films. She is probably most visible as "the Pine Sol lady" in the national ad campaign. The Marsh will bring back one of the Bay Area's favorite humorists, Ian Shoales, in Rage to Rent (Oct 4­26). New cushy seats, a new dessert bar and a late-night Friday open mike for vocalists are among this season's innovations.
$8­$12, 1062 Valencia St., 826-5750.

New Conservatory Theatre Center
The New Conservatory continues to build its reputation as a haven for gay male playwrights with its second Pride Season, titled "Moving Forward With Pride." The five shows this season are: Fortune and Men's Eyes by John Herbert (Sep 19­Oct 26); Vanities by Jack Heifner (Nov 14­Dec 21); Trafficking in Broken Hearts by Edwin Sanchez (Jan 16­Mar 15); The Lonely Planet by Steven Dietz (Apr 3­May 17); and End of the World Party by Chuck Ranberg (June 5­ July 19). NCTC has acknowledged the need to search out more lesbian writers for future Pride Seasons, and time will tell if that quest pays off. All of the plays in this year's lineup are either SF or West Coast premieres, with the exception of Herbert's 1967 classic about incarcerated youth.
$15­$20, 25 Van Ness Ave., 861-8972.

Phoenix Theatre
Bill English directs the Northern California premiere of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn's Henceforward. Ayckbourn is known, unfairly, as the Neil Simon of Britain for his domestic comedies (Just Between Ourselves, Absurd Person Singular). This work marks a departure with its sci-fi setting.
Sep 5­Oct 13, Sun­Thur 8:00pm, $16, 301 Eighth St., 621-4423.

Sick & Twisted Players
Although they've given up their Bernice Street digs, the Sick and Twisteds haven't given up performing, their current riff on a trash-culture favorite being The Towering Inferno.
Tuesdays until Oct 1, 8:00pm, $10 (cash only), Transmission Theater, 314 Folsom St., 826-5358.

A Traveling Jewish Theatre
No less than four works receive their world premieres at ATJT this year. Helen Stoltzfus' Like a Mother Bear (Oct 10­Nov 17), which was postponed from last season, starts off the year. This piece depicts a woman's search for healing, from nutritionists to psychics to an Elvis-impersonating acupuncturist, to finally discovering the great "Bear Mother" of the imagination. Corey Fischer, one of ATJT's founding members, and guest artist Nina Wise collaborate improvisationally in Now What? (Dec 5­21), staged in honor of Hanukkah. Another ATJT co-founder, Naomi Newman, joins forces with dancer and choreographer Remy Charlip and director Martha Boesing in Old, Jewish and Queer (Feb 18­Mar 23). Finally, Leonard Pitt, formerly of Life on the Water, and Ruth Zaporah of Action Theatre collaborate with celebrated performer/director Rinde (Slow Fire) Eckert in Seduction (Apr 3­May 4), which explores yearning, joy and parting through movement, gesture and vocal sound.
Project Artaud, 2800 Mariposa St., 899-1809.

Young Performers Theatre
Let's not forget the kids. YPT presents three favorites of the younger set this fall, starting off with Pinocchio (Sep 14­Oct 13). If your kids missed the recent live-action film of Carlo Collodi's classic tale of the puppet who would be a real live boy, here's your chance to see it in the flesh (in the wood?). Next up is Dr. Seuss' The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (Oct 26­Nov 24), about a peasant boy with an embarrassment of haberdashery riches. Finally, the holiday show, A Bear Called Paddington (Dec 7­23), tells the story of everybody's favorite ursine foundling. At $5 a ticket for children under 12 and $7 for older children and adults, YPT is an economical and enjoyable alternative to the multiplexes.
Bldg. C, Rm. 300, Fort Mason Center, 346-5550.

Musical Theatre

Cal Performances
A rare U.S. appearance by Japan's most revered company, the 70-member Grand Kabuki of Japan (Sep 14­15) kicks off Cal Performances' season with the masterwork Shunkan. On Feb 15, China takes center stage with the Shenyang Peking Opera Company's production of The Monkey King, a Chinese comic fairy tale capped off by the appearance of Buddha. (For comparative literature aficionados, it might be fun to see Berkeley Rep's Journey to the West before seeing this.) Finally, Lee Breuer's spectacularly joyous retelling of the final story of the Oedipus myth, The Gospel at Colonus, featuring some of the legends of gospel music, including the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Soul Stirrers, plays Feb 25­March 1.
Zellerbach Hall, U.C. Berkeley Campus, Bancroft Ave., 510/642-9988.

42nd Street Moon
Musical fans owe a huge debt to 42nd Street Moon's "Lost Musical Series," which revives forgotten treasures. Something Sort of Grandish (Sep 19­29) inaugurates this season, celebrating the centenary anniversary of Hollywood lyricist E.Y. (Yip) Harburg, who penned such classics as "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Next, 42nd Street Moon launches a mini­Jerome Kern Festival with a rare production of his 1920 hit, The Night Boat (Oct 3­20). This show is also notable for the contributions of librettist/lyricist Anne Caldwell, the most successful female writer ever of Broadway musicals. Next up is Roberta (Oct 31­Nov 17) and, finally, the Gershwins' Lady Be Good! (Nov 27­Dec 15), originally starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele.
$15­$20. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., 861-8972.


Lamplighters Music Theatre
These purveyors of fine Gilbert & Sullivan start the season with The Sorcerer (Sep 28­Oct 27), under the direction of Barbara E. Heroux. This comedy about a love-at-first-sight potion and the mayhem it wreaks on a bucolic village has only been revived once since its first performances in 1877. Heroux was named best director at the prestigious International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in 1995. The orchestra for The Sorcerer is conducted by Monroe Kanouse, who led The Lamplighters' Princess Ida to first place at the same festival.
$19/$23 and $12 for under 18, Lindland Theatre, Riordan High School, 175 Phelan Ave., 227-0331.


Anne Galjour

Solo Mio Festival
Celebrating its seventh year, the Festival's out-of-town talent includes Dan Butler, known to fans of NBC's Frasier as Bulldog, the loud-mouthed misogynist sportscaster. Butler brings his semi-autobiographical look at sexual identity, The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me, after a successful run in Los Angeles. Dick Gregory, who just appeared at Afro Solo, turns up again. Local gals-made-good Margaret Cho and Marga Gomez also appear, the latter as the recipient of the Solo Mio Award. The incomparable Anne Galjour brings her unique brand of Cajun storytelling to the Festival. Mark Eitzel, former frontman for the now-defunct American Music Club, presents a collection of stories and songs, many culled from his new solo album, 60 Watt Silver Lining. And the hilarious David Sedaris of NPR's Morning Edition fame will be reading his favorites pieces, some not-quite-ready-for-prime-time.
Sep 18­Oct 13, $10­$20, Young Performers Theatre (Bldg. C) & Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, 392-4400.

SF Fringe Festival
Produced by Exit Theatre and now in its fifth year, "the Fringe" presents 50 theatre companies from around the world. The "Best of the Fest" will run for two weekends following the regular festival. Promising shows this year include Elisa DeCarlo's Dirty Little Mouth. DeCarlo's I Love Drugs was in the Best of the Fest last year. Festival regulars Theatre Au Naturel return with Razorlight, about the aftermath of being struck by lightning. The sketch comedy queens Nude Coffee will lend their talents, and The Acme Miniature Circus checks in with a real, sho'nuff flea circus, including an appearance by (human) magician Michael Marlin.
Sep 5­15, $7. Performances at 450 Geary Street, Shelton Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Exit Stage Left and Exit Theatre. 673-3847.


Actorama presents Jean Genet's The Maids. Based on the true case of the Papin sisters in Lyon, France, who murdered their employer and her daughter in 1933, Genet's first play calls for male actors in the role of the sisters, a demand Actorama is honoring in its production.
Through Sep 15, $10 gen., $5 seniors and students, Toland Hall, 533 Parnassus Ave., 648-7736.

SF State University
The season begins with Mad Forest (Oct 18­20, 24­27), Caryl Churchill's surreal look at the fall of communism in Romania, complete with angels and vampires, two of the dominant themes of '90s art. Although a long way from being a student, Anna Deavere Smith graces SFSU with Fires in the Mirror (Nov 14­24), the work which preceded last season's smash, Twilight: Los Angeles. Fires ... was presented at Berkeley Rep in 1994. Winner of a 1996 MacArthur Foundation "genius" award, Smith may well be the most important woman in American theater. At $9, this has got to be one of the best bargains of the season. John Ford's post-Shakespearean classic 'Tis Pity She's a Whore runs Dec 5­15. Finally, every Wednesday and Friday, Brown Bag Theatre will present classic one-acts and abridged full-length plays. This series almost always fills up (admission is free), so get there early.
$9 gen., $7 students and seniors, Little Theatre, Creative Arts Building, 1600 Holloway Ave., 338-1442.

Several shows in San Francisco are just like Denny's: they never seem to close.

Beach Blanket Babylon
Always an irreverent favorite with tourists and locals alike, the show has survived the passing of beloved founder Steve Silver, and should have a few new tricks up its sleeve this election year.
Wed­Thur 8:00pm Fri­Sat 7:00 and 10:00pm, Sun 3:00 and 7:00pm, $18­45, Club Fugazi, 678 Green St., 421-4222.

Phantom of the Opera
Now in its third year and w-a-y past its 1,000th performance. Andrew Lloyd Webber's career is practically a textbook case of the triumph of style over substance, but Phantom is always a good choice for visitors who don't want to stray too far afield from Union Square.
Tues­Sat 8:00pm, $15­$65, Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., 474-3800 or 510/762-BASS.

This gay comedy about seven men at a party has had long runs in Chicago and New York, and is slated for productions in Washington, Toronto, Detroit and Miami. Can an Ice Capades version be far behind?
Through Nov 3, $20­$25, Cable Car Theatre, 430 Mason St., 956-8497.

Medea, the Musical

Medea, The Musical
John Fisher's Glickman Award­winner is a hilarious satire on Greek tragedy, the theatre business, sexuality and murder. A director's production is ruined when the gay actor cast as Jason falls in love with his straight Medea.
Through Oct 13, Wed­Sat 8:00pm, Sat­Sun 3:00pm, $25 and $29, Stage Door Theatre, 420 Mason St., 433-9500 or 510/762-BASS.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile
In Steve Martin's award-winning first play, pre-fame Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein lock horns in a Paris bistro. Original NY cast.
Through Nov 3, Tues­Thur 8:00pm, Fri 8:30pm, Sat 6:00 and 9:00pm, Sun 3:00 and 7:00pm, $25­$38, Theatre on the Square, 450 Post St., 433-9500 or 510/762-BASS.

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