Bus Stop This gentle, slice-of-life 1950s drama invokes a spring snowstorm to strand a bus carrying a young Montana cowboy, a Kansas City nightclub floozy and a drunken ex-professor (quoting Shakespeare) amidst curious locals at a forlorn cafe in a tiny prairie town. Three efforts at intimacy ensue, ranging from idealistic love (seeing no faults), to predatory pedophilia, to a quiet quickie between consenting, working-class 40-somethings. Some performances stray on the broad side early on, but the second half is a keeper. Playwright William Inge deserves more recognition as the Steinbeck of the Great Plains.
Chautauqua Playhouse , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on March 24 and 31, $11-$12. 5325 Engle Road (in La Sierra Center), Carmichael, 489-7529. Through April 6. J.H.
Dancing at Lughnasa This memory play is about an impoverished, female-dominated household in rural Ireland circa the 1930s. It is at once nostalgic and gloomy, combining boyhood recollections with the adult realization that the family would soon be smashed by the harsh economic realities of modern times. While the script is lyrical and there are several strong performances, the better elements don’t quite bond into a whole.
Main Street Theatre Works , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on March 10, $5-$14. 59 Main Street (Highway 49) in Sutter Creek, (209) 267-5680. Through March 23. J.H.
Love Letters For Valentine’s Day (and after), this production features different couples from the local theater community, reading A.R. Gurney’s popular play, which relates the story of two lifelong friends (and lovers) from the time they’re growing up well into middle age, told through the exchange of old-fashioned letters—the kind the postman used to bring. We’re not rating it, because the cast rotates from week to week.
Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre , 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. $16, reservations required. 1901 P. St., 444-8209. Through March 30. J.H.
Othello This no-frills, modern dress production featuring a local cast is anything but consistent. The opening is sketchy, and a few scenes land with a dull thud. But lanky Jeff Young brings nobility and quiet rage to the title role, while Scott Divine (as khaki-clad enlisted man Iago) is chilling as he spins fetid lies. Supporting actors, sometimes weak in the first half, gradually rise to the task. The powerful emotions (love, jealousy, hate, revenge) that make this a great play are summoned to life. Bear with this little show’s inadequacies—when all is said and done, Othello’s tragedy is real.
Actor’s Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Blvd., 925-6579. J.H.
Scattered Bits and Pieces Playwright, songwriter, choreographer, performer and director Doniel Soto reaches for the stars in this ambitious new solo effort, playing a nervous mental patient returning to the stage after a 15-year layoff. Soto (as the patient) presents a string of characters and scenes, ranging from Native American ritual to stand-up comedy to first-person confessional to song. The design initially seems random (hence the title), but there’s a plan underneath. It’s intense and intelligent, and well worth checking out—especially if your taste runs toward experimental, multidisciplinary work. Dress warmly as the theater is unheated.
Abandon Productions at the Space , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $10, 2509 R St., 737-2304. Through March 23. J.H.
Six Women With Brain Death This very campy revue is Sacramento’s longest-running show, having celebrated its fifth anniversary in October. It’s a series of skits and songs about midlife women with “expiring minds,” dealing with soap operas, high-school reunions, grocery shopping and getting away from the kids. While the show clearly tickles the funnybone of its core audience (females over 40), our critic found the appeal elusive and the humor generic. But then, he’s a middle-aged guy.
Studio Theatre , 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $14-$18. 1028 R St., 446-2668. Open-ended run. J.H.