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San Francisco Spotlight: February 2009

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Judy Kaye in Souvenir
(© Carol Rosegg)
The legendary Judy Kaye graces the venerable stage of the American Conservatory Theater this month in Stephen Temperley's Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins (February 13-March 15). Though it's hard to believe, this show is based on real-life events. Jenkins was a disillusioned and completely tone-deaf socialite who imagined herself a great soprano, and amazingly enough, that perspective nabbed her gigs at private charity galas at the Ritz Carlton ballroom and eventually Carnegie Hall. Kaye's portrayal of Jenkins earned her a Tony Award nomination in 2006.

The West Coast premiere of journalist George Packer's Betrayed arrives at the Aurora Theatre, through March 1. Winner of the 2008 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, the work is based on Packer's first-person interviews in Baghdad after the U.S. invasion, and his subsequent eye-opening 2007 essay in The New Yorker about Iraqi translators who risk their lives to aid the American war effort. Also making its West Coast premiere is Be My Baby, by Ken Ludwig (Willows Theatre in Concord, February 2-March 1). In the comedy, Maud and John might charitably be described as "sworn enemies." So, when family obligations require them to hop a transatlantic flight to San Francisco to collect a newly adopted baby, temper tantrums abound.

The wildly successfully Broadway musical The Producers, penned by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, plays the Lesher Center for the Arts, February 13-March 15. The Diablo Light Opera Company stages this hilarious and entertaining production that follows the crazy scheme of two theatrical producers who hope to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. Unfortunately for them, their flop is a smashing success. You may already be watching Giselle Peacock and Henry Byalikov, competing in the NBC hit reality show, Superstars of Dance. They're also featured in Burn the Floor, a scorchingly sexy evening of dance at the Post Street Theatre, playing through March 15.

The Magic Theatre, which has recently emerged from financial endangerment thanks to a successful fundraising campaign, will present the world premiere of Lloyd Suh's American Hwangup (February 28-March 29), about a Korean immigrant's return to the U.S. to reunite with the family he abandoned 15 years prior. In honor of Black History Month, Brava Theater will host Negasha Ayer, an eight-member music ensemble, set to present the transcontinental journey, The Space of In Between (February 6 and 7).

Not for the faint of heart, Scott Capurro Goes Deeper (Marsh Studio Theatre, February 13 and 14) is a series of sketches, during which alternative comic Capurro asks, then answers, a number of uncomfortable questions in the form of a comedic monologue. The Jewbird and the Magic Barrel, two of Bernard Malamud's most celebrated stories are staged by the theater company Word for Word at A Traveling Jewish Theatre, February 12-16.

Edward Albee's tense drama A Delicate Balance is produced by San Francisco's Custom Made Theatre Company, February 6-March 7. Despite a few bumps here and there, Agnes and Tobias have a quiet life free of drama. That all changes when their best friends, Harry and Edna, arrive unannounced and lock themselves upstairs with no intention of leaving, and their daughter, Julia, comes home from the failure of her fourth marriage.

Have some fun on Valentine's Day with How We First Met, the annual improv production that plays at the Herbst Theatre on February 14. Couples from the audience are asked how they first met while live actors re-create pivotal story moments with improvised sketches and songs. Anti-Valentine's Day enthusiasts may adore the 6th annual production of Love Bites Pop Rocks: LGCSF Sings Top-40 Hits of Bitterness and Betrayal, as the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco sings the world's most famous songs about broken hearts, lies, and more (The Women's Building, February 6-13). Or check out the California Conservatory Theatre's production of Evolution of a Relationship (February 5-March 1), in which five short, independent pieces show how we develop bonds throughout the different stages of our lives.

Just mention the name Shel Silverstein and almost everyone in the room will collectively sigh. Recapture those fond memories with the world premiere of Where the Sidewalk Ends (February 26-March 21), where the author's entire canon of work is updated and presented to an adult audience by the Boxcar Theatre.

Curb your child's sweet fix with a trip to see Willy Wonka Jr. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, February 12-16. Staged by the Berkeley Playhouse Youth Company, the most edible and whimsical shenanigans abound when a group of children win a golden ticket to a candy factory.


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