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Let Me Down Easy at Berkeley Rep

Written and acted by the incomparable Anna Deavere Smith, Let Me Down Easy is an exquisite show about the human body - the feats it can endure and the ways it breaks down. 

If you’re prone to inhaling episodes of The West Wing, you probably recognize Smith, but she’s also a big darn theater deal. An unparalleled performer, Obie award-winner, and finalist for the Pulitzer, Smith trained locally, receiving her MFA at American Conservatory Theatre and working with Berkeley Rep in the early days. 

The Nature Line at Sleepwalker's Theater

Haunted by the apocalypse since his early twenties, playwright JC Lee's poetic visions of the end of the world as we know it form the landscape for his three-play cycle, now in its final installment at Sleepwalker’s Theater. "If this is what post-apocalyptic life looks like, I don’t think I’ll mind so much when everything goes to hell," says theater critic Chad Jones. 

In The Nature Line, Aya is on the hunt for her lost children, a journey that carries her past pavement reclaimed by forest and vine-choked vending machines until she reaches the wall at the edge of the world. Fond of using whimsy to make sense of chaos, Lee's characters are forced to create their own safety in luminous inner worlds, even as they try to save what's left. 

Peaches En Regalia: From Frank Zappa to Local Theater

Named after a track on Frank Zappa’s 1969 Hot Rats album, Peaches en Regalia was the brainchild of Berkeley playwright Steve Lyons, who began writing the comedy because he wanted to see actors boogey on stage to his favorite childhood song. After he attached a one-act to his lightning bolt of theatrical inspiration, it was performed in San Francisco, New York, LA, London, and Edinburgh. 

San Francisco Theater Festival Celebrates Its Eighth Year of Free Samples

Usually at Yerba Buena, this year finds the San Francisco Theater Festival trundling over to Fort Mason Center, where it will boast more than one hundred shows in a dozen indoor and outdoor venues. All performances are half an hour or less, all are free, and all are indicative of what’s percolating in the local theater scene. 

Featured is the world premiere of Keith Moon Project’s Keith Moon - The Real Me. About the real Keith Moon, we presume; the rebel genius of The Who with a fondness for destroying his drums onstage. 

David and Amy Sedaris’ The Book of Liz at Custom Made Theater

Sister Elizabeth Donderstock's cheeseballs are all the religious community of Clusterhaven has left. But when they cease to appreciate her properly, Sister Elizabeth decides to take her cheese balls out into the great, wide world. Where she finds alcoholics, Ukrainians with cockney accents, mysterious peanuts, and that ever-elusive self respect. A quirky marriage of religion, alcoholism, and dairy products, The Book of Liz is David and Amy Sedaris' devilish take on the universal need to find one's bearings in a world that keeps shifting under your feet. 

Indulgences in the Louisville Harem

Mrs. Whiting’s New Book of Eligible Gentlemen was the Victorian answer to OKCupid, providing mail-order suitors to confirmed spinsters Florence and Viola. The internet is approximately 90 years away from invention, but Indulgences in the Louisville Harem proceeds just as it might today - any online dater will attest that hurling yourself into the dating fray sets you up for misunderstandings and mayhem and random hypnotism. Kentucky circa 1902 is no exception. 

Aurora Theatre Extends Metamorphosis

Kafka’s harrowing tale of alienation-via-accidental-and-inexplicable-insectification gets a remake by British director David Farr and Icelandic actor-director Gísli Örn Gardarsson. Acclaimed local director Mark Jackson heads up this chilling-yet-funny adaptation of the 1915 novella about a family thrown for a loop when one of them wakes up to find he's turned into a really big bug. 

Into the Woods for Twelfth Night

If wandering through the forest toward champagne, strawberries, and Shakespeare is your thing, good news: Twelfth Night at Theatre in the Woods opens this weekend. A guided summer trek through the redwoods, actors burst out of the brush at key spots to perform scenes of shipwreck and heartbreak. You end up at the main stage on seats carved out of the adjacent hillside watching Shakespearean poetry and snacking on the remains of your picnic lunch. (Note: bring a picnic lunch. Go on Sunday for the promised champagne and strawberries.) 

A Different Kind of Drag Queen in Persepolis, Texas

How a young girl raised by Iranian parents in the suburbs of the south moves to San Francisco to become a drag queen is the driving arc of Persepolis, Texas, Maryam Farnaz Rostami’s new one-woman show at Counterpulse. 

Rostami explores the universal question of what makes us who we are through the lens of her own life, using the archetypes of the auntie, the kid, the cowboy, the pop star. Shifting through each character, she re-creates a self-flagellating mourning ritual (complete with cowboy hat) and the traditional Persian dances her family would’ve killed to see her perform. (The family’s ideal probably doesn’t include full drag.) 

E-Harmonious: ODC Theater Flirts with Greatness in Latest Musical, OMFG

We’re all too familiar with the narrative infrastructure of ODC Theater’s latest musical, OMFG: Lonely man meets lonely woman. They flirt. They exaggerate their case for why they’d make ideal companions. True identities are revealed. Love is in the balance.

Once upon a time these types of encounters were the marked territory of contrived rom-com cinema, but the veils and deceptions of the Internet have made everyone with a laptop a potential author of such yarns. All the virtual world is a stage (too), the perfect place to ignore what we see in the mirror. So people bend the truth and hide insecurities as best they can. Until they can’t anymore.

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