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San Francisco Spotlight: February 2007

Death Becomes Them logo
Beth Wilmurt, Jud Williford,
and Jody Flader
in American $uicide
(© Mark Leialoha)
Pop artist Andy Warhol famously predicted that everyone will get his or her 15 shining minutes of fame. And thanks to the booming success, if not downright saturation of reality television, Warhol's cheeky comment has never been so accurate. American $uicide (February 15 through March 11), written and directed by Mark Jackson, presents a take on 20th-century Russian playwright Nikolai Erdman's The Suicide. Penned in 1929, the biting farce was never staged -- in fact it was altogether banned, and Erdman wound up arrested and exiled. Co-produced between Z Plays and Encore Theatre Company and staged at the Thick House, American $uicide takes aim at the United States' fascination with media, its power, lure, and amazing authority when its central character Sam auctions off his plan to commit suicide to the highest bidder.

Custom Made Theatre Company presents its simultaneous productions of Woody Allen's absurd, yet wildly funny plays God and Death (February 2-March 10). In the first, two Greeks named Hepatitis and Diabetes get wrapped up in pondering the meaning of life while racing to find just the right ending for the play they plan on entering into the Athenian drama festival. The companion piece is a sardonic comedy, which follows Kleinman, a man rudely awakened by a vigilante mob to help catch a killer. Problem is, the mobsters forgot to tell him what role he is to play in all of this. As Kleinman tries to figure it all out, he realizes he could be an intended victim, or possibly even the killer.

Just when you thought there couldn't be any more adaptations of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, American Conservatory Theatre touts a new translation from Paul Walsh, directed by Richard E. T. White (February 9-March 11). Playing the title role is René Augesen, who wowed audiences in the role of Nora in Ibsen's equally famous A Doll's House in 2004. The cast also includes Anthony Fusco as George Tesman, Sharon Lockwood as Miss Juliane Tesman, and Jack Willis as Judge Brack.

The Bay Area's venerable Obie Award-winning director Les Waters takes on To the Lighthouse, a world-premiere adaptation by playwright Adel Edling Shank of Virginia Woolf's landmark novel (February 23-March 25) at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Hot House 2007, the annual event at the revered Magic Theatre, features two world premiere plays this month. Chantal Bilodeau's Pleasure and Pain (February 3-March 31) goes inside the mind of unassuming Midwesterner Peggy to reveal an internal world that is far from innocent. Kirsten Greenidge's Rust (February 17-April 1) is a fantastical comedy that casts pop icons Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben as the caring mentors of a black football superstar who must learn to play the all-American game on his own terms.

San Rafael resident and playwright Robert Ernst presents the world-premiere of his new play Catherine's Care, and takes his audiences through the fractured mind of Catherine, whose line between memory and reality has nearly been erased. Composer Andy Dinsmoor and Barney Jones lend their talents to this offbeat musical that is staged by the Alternative Theater Ensemble and brimming with imagination and creativity (February 2 through 18).

Bring the family out for Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson's much-loved musical Pippin, the warming tale of a boy meant to do the most wonderful things, if only he could figure out what those things are. Directed by Jay Manley and produced by the Foothill College Drama Department, the tuner plays February 16-March 11.

Also bound to warm hearts is the Contra Costa Musical Theatre's production of Guys and Dolls (February 16-March 17), directed by Jennifer Perry, with musical direction by Heidi Dahms. This all-ages show by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, with music by Frank Loesser, won the Tony for "Best Musical" in 1951 and includes such timeless hits as "Luck Be a Lady" and "A Bushel and a Peck."

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