Peaches of immortality

An actor in <i>Tales From Beijing Opera</i>: No fat lady here!

An actor in Tales From Beijing Opera: No fat lady here!

A lot of people think of Beijing opera as exotic—and it is. But this traditional Chinese art form has worked its way further into pop culture than you might think. After all, what is Darth Maul (of Star Wars) but a Beijing opera sword-swinger hybridized into an American space opera?

Tales from the Beijing Opera, the small production featured this month at the Eagle Theater in Old Sacramento, features two performers who do a pair of scenes (drawn from a repertoire of five). The show has a few “homemade” aspects, including a little slide show in the middle to provide time for changes in costume and makeup. The scenes themselves, however, are marvelous. In one, actor Zhou Xin-Lai does high leg kicks and preens in a bright yellow costume as the Monkey King, filching the Peaches of Immortality before the Jade Emperor’s banquet, and mugging at the audience in funny, simian manner with his gloriously painted face. Zhou delivers his lines in Chinese, while the other cast member, Merrianne Moore, delivers hers in English with broad, easy-to-follow humor. In another scene, Moore (as a 19-year-old nun—in pursuit of her boyfriend!) tries to cut a deal for a ride across the river with a 79-year-old boatman. There’s no boat on stage, but you can nonetheless see the little craft tipping, bobbing and abruptly running aground on a sandbar.

It’s a small show, and can be appreciated as such. Think of it as a sort of theatrical equivalent to a lunch special. Performances 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Eagle Theatre, 111 I Street, Old Sacramento. $8-$12. (916) 441-4244. Through July 1.