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.
Charlie Victor Romeo This tense, reality-based drama uses adrenaline-filled dialogue drawn from actual “black box” transcripts from six flights gone dreadfully (and sometimes fatally) wrong. The show played for eight months off-off-Broadway in 1999, and this touring production visits the Main Theater at UC Davis , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $27. UC Davis, (530) 752-1915. Through March 24. 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.
Death Trap Ira Levin, author of middlebrow best-sellers (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys From Brazil) had tongue-in-cheek when he wrote this “one-set, five-character money-maker” back in the ’70s—making smirking remarks about the clichés of the murder-mystery genre, while deploying them at the same time. Just about every character has a motive to kill, and there are lots of nasty weapons conveniently at hand. You can also smile over the dated references to such obsolete technologies as carbon paper. This production won’t make converts out of skeptics, but fans of the form will enjoy the ride.
Garbeau’s Dinner Theater , shows 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Show only $17, dinner/show $34. 12401 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova. (916) 985-6361. Through April 28. J.H.
F-Stop Comedy and tragedy live side-by-side in this show, which alternates between campy parody of martial arts films (featuring a kickboxing actress called “Chop Suzy”) and the nastier consequences of dealing with a brutal, totalitarian military dictator in an unnamed African country. Emotionally, it’s a bit darker than usual for the B Street—but that’s not a bad thing. Several of the characters speak in clipped phrases like hardboiled detectives. The show also features two African-American actors (seldom seen on this stage).
B Street Theatre , 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, $10.75-$20.50. 2711 B St., 443-5300. Through April 14. J.H.
Little Shop of Horrors At once both an audaciously campy and a strangely sweet sentimental story of Skid Row florist Seymour, who captures clerk Audrey’s heart and saves his boss’ failing flower shop when he discovers a hungry plant with an insatiable appetite. The Foothill Theatre captures everything that makes this musical so charming—it’s fun, irreverent, earnest, delightfully demented, and mysteriously moving. Out of a bouquet of good performances, two really bloom—Karen Casl as the voluptuous-yet-vulnerable Audrey and Fredrick Snyder as the evil-incarnate Orin, D.D.S.
Foothill Theatre Company , 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday,. $17-$21. 401 Broad St., Nevada City, (530) 265-8587. Through April 21. P.R.
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. Extended through April 27. 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. Through March 24. 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.
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.