Leave it to San Francisco to devise a way to turn Shakespeare into an event reminiscent of its annual leather daddy festival, the Folsom Street Fair. Granted, the Cutting Ball Theater's staging of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew at Magic Theatre (July 12-29) is certainly a tamer spectacle in many respects, but might send stodgy purists and traditionalists running for the door. The edgy theater company infuses hip-hop dancing, risqué costuming, and circus theatrics into its production, directed by Rob Melrose.
Also sure to turn heads is this year's annual San Francisco Theater Festival. The free event showcases 75 theater groups on 10 stages in a one-day theatrical smorgasbord (July 22). One of the many shows showing off its wares at the festival will be Jay Kuo's Insignificant Others (Zeum Theatre, July 14-August 26), a new musical about a group of pals who move to San Francisco and face obstacles, find love, and heartache.
Romance and comedy abound in Michael Golamco's Cowboy vs. Samurai, presented by the Asian American Theater company at the Thick House Theatre (July 5-22). It's not easy being the only two Asian Americans in the Podunk town of Breakneck, Wyoming, but the arrival of Veronica Lee, a Korean American teacher from New York City at least begins to make things a heck of a lot more interesting.
Carlo D'Amore's one-man show No Parole (Playhouse Theatre, July 12-28) follows the story of a mother who is cunning, charismatic, and woefully misguided -- so much so that she winds up behind bars for eight years, suffers a stroke, and leaves her son to care for the destitute woman who's been estranged from him for many years.
Over at The Marsh, Will Franken performs his one-man show, Grandpa, It's Not Fitting (July 6-August 4). Fasten your seatbelts for Franken's strange and satirical trip, which includes visits to Westminster Abbey for the Final Broadcast of the Christian Faith and to a prison cell for a heart-to-heart talk with everybody's favorite political prisoner, Too-koo Moo-moo.
Always a crowd pleaser, West Side Story plays at Oakland's Woodminster Amphitheater (July 13-22). Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the famous musical, composed by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, is an update of Romeo and Juliet set in 1950s New York City.