There's stardust of a different sort over at the American Conservatory Theatre, which stages David Mamet's wonderfully funny take on the cutthroat film industry, Speed-the-Plow (January 4-February 3). Loretta Greco, who directed the venerable company's production of Blackbird last season, returns to helm this production, which stars 2007 Drama Desk Award nominee Andrew Polk, Matthew Del Negro, and Jessi Campbell.
Obie Award-winning actor and writer Danny Hoch stars in his new solo play, Taking Over at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (January 11-February 10). This world premiere work is an honest portrayal of the various characters in Hoch's neighborhood; swiftly and deftly maneuvering across boundaries of race, age, and gender.
Also over in Berkeley, Aurora Theatre offers Diana Son's Satellites (January 25-March 2), about a young interracial New York couple adjusting to both their new neighborhood and their new baby. The Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences of Berkeley presents Little Women (January 19-February 3), Marisha Chamberlain's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's famed novel about four sisters growing up during the Civil War.
Back in San Francisco, don't miss Golden Tread Productions' ReOrient, an annual festival of short plays about the Middle East, at the Magic Theatre. (January 10-February 3) This special event features new works from Yussef El Guindi, Laura Shamas, Naomi Wallace, Ignacio Zulueta, and Iranian poet Simin Behbehani. Not surprisingly politics and current events are at the center of many of the productions, but there are laughs as well. Also playing at the Magic during this time will be Betty Shamieh's Territories, another play about life in the Middle East.
The Playwright's Center of San Francisco presents Lee Brady's Henrietta English (January 8), an interesting twist on Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, where the title character, who hails from Lawton, Oklahoma, learns that she has much in common with her Nordic counterpart. The following week, the Center presents Patricia Milton's Busybody (January 15), in which Missy takes matters into her own hands when her son is beaten up by the daughter of an Army drill sergeant at the base housing complex where they live; and Marilyn Flower's Missing Pieces (January 18), the story of five wounded men vying for attention in a VA hospital day room.
Contracost Civic Theatre serves up Irving Berlin's beloved musical, The Cocoanuts, with a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind (January 25-March 2). First made incredibly famous by the Marx Brothers, the piece focuses on the manager of a failing resort hotel during the Florida land boom of the 1920s up to his usual tricks: making dodgy land deals, wooing a wealthy dowager, and refusing to pay his staff.
Heading north, Palo Alto's TheatreWorks presents Wendy Wassertstein's final play Third (January 16-February 10), about a feminist college professor (played by the excellent Elizabeth Norment) finding herself at both a professional and personal crossroad; while the American Musical Theatre of San Jose showcases the offbeat musical Little Shop of Horrors (January 22-February 3), starring Hal Linden, Josh Lamon, and Christiane Noll.