Fire by friction

Ed Gyles as Dr. Kroeber, Antonio “Tito” Juarez as Ishi in <i>Wild Indian</i>: “I’m telling you, Doc: It was <i>this</i> big.”

Ed Gyles as Dr. Kroeber, Antonio “Tito” Juarez as Ishi in Wild Indian: “I’m telling you, Doc: It was this big.”

Playwright Ted Shank—formerly of UC Davis—generates some interesting sparks in Wild Indian by rubbing four very different characters together for two hours. There’s Ishi—apparently the last survivor of Northern California’s Yahi tribe, a “stone-age man” who comes out of the hills near Oroville in 1911—and Prof. Alfred Kroeber, the prominent anthropologist who turns Ishi into a living exhibit at his museum in San Francisco. There’s also Kroeber’s assistant—a nascent suffragette who is determined that women will get the right to vote—and a Chinese employee whose grandfather labored building California’s railroads. You can hear the echoes of the conflict between white settlers and native tribes, while World War I, with its horrific carnage and poison gas attacks, is slowly coming to a boil. This small, modestly mounted production has a remarkably broad perspective and a lot to say. California Stage, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, 2509 R Street (by the light rail tracks). $12-$14, 451-5822. Through November. 17.