Bad Axe Set on the American frontier in 1832, this dark, witty, invigorating drama deals with the conclusion of the Black Hawk Indian War. There’s much talk of raids, retaliation and vengeance and of victims on both sides who get scalped. The central character is a woman who kills her deranged, scalp-collecting husband under bizarre circumstances on the battlefield—was she forced to do it, or did she want to? The subject matter of this Foothill Theatre Company production is too grim for children but is a gripping experience for adults, well worth the drive.
Nevada Theatre , 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $5-$21. 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587. Through May 25. J.H.
The Birds Director David Harris updates this highly irreverent comedy by Aristophanes (circa 414 B.C.) with numerous modern references, including Bob Marley, a spiky punker and a box of stolen ballots fresh from Florida. This is a wild, delightfully chaotic, decidedly audacious, heads-up effort. Some of the cast members are young or inexperienced, and a few scenes miss, but the ones that work are so outrageous that the show is well worth seeing, just because it’s so crazy and ambitious.
Art Court Theatre , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. show Thursday, May 22; $7-$12. Sacramento City College campus, 3835 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 558-2228. Through May 24. J.H.
The Legend of Noon The level of execution in this show, though sincere, is rudimentary. But it’s a rare opportunity to see two works written by Japanese absurdist Minoru Betsuyaku. Legend is a Beckett-like riff on an everyday Japanese conundrum—the tension between saying and doing what’s polite and expected and the inward desire to express what you really feel. The twist is that the story’s set in the miserable aftermath of World War II, with wounded soldiers singing an imperial anthem as the comedy of manners plays out. The other play, The Cherry in Bloom, is a dark portrait of a dysfunctional family in a rigid society. If you’ve got a taste for the absurd, this is quite a valuable (if barebones) production. But casual, impatient viewers may have trouble locating the appeal.
InterACT , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, $12-$14. 4010 El Camino Avenue, (916) 452-6174. Through June 1. J.H.
The Nerd Willium Cubbert’s life has stalled. Enter Rick Steadman, a Vietnam vet who saved Willium’s life on the battlefield but hasn’t been heard from since. Rick’s problem? He’s a nerd, a social misfit, a fashion don’t, an over-insistent irritant. Willium’s problem? He wants to get rid of Rick but made a battlefield vow to be there when Rick needed him, so he’s stuck. Though the play suffers from implausible plot lines and misplaced sentiments, it does give us goofy guffaws, funny setups and a strange yet endearing portrayal of a nerd who’s nebbish but never malicious.
Delta King Theatre , 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, $12-$18. 1000 Front Street, (916) 995-5464, Through June 14. P.R.
Nuts Is Claudia Faith Draper certifiably nuts? Certifiably is the key word. Claudia, a good-girl-gone-murderer, wants to forgo the insanity plea, be declared sane, stand trial and be acquitted. But under a New York law, she could be held indefinitely in a mental hospital against her wishes. This three-act play from SacActors.com is meant to examine a legal and mental system run amok and a society that deems women the weaker, wackier link. But what this courtroom drama lacks is drama. Part of the problem is the passé plot. However, it’s also an undercooked production that leaves a lot lacking. Many lines were stumbled over, forgotten or recited by rote, causing action to stop, pacing to stall and suspense to suspend.
Geery Theatre , 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, $12.50-$14.50. 2130 L Street, (916) 451-4152. Through June 15. P.R.
The Queen of Bingo Sisterhood really is powerful, and it’s pretty funny, too, in this winning little comedy. But the two middle-aged women in this show are anything but self-empowered—they’re playing bingo in a church hall, relating tales of junk-food excess and getting giddy when they get a winning card. Sue Madden and Trish DeBaun bring energy and insight to what easily could have been less-dimensional characters.
California Stage , 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, with extra performances 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22 and 29; $10. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-2455. Through May 31. J.H.