As You Like It Most California festivals stage Shakespeare with modern updates, but this production hews close to the traditional Bard. The costumes look Elizabethan, and there are no modern props. The cast includes eight Equity actors, giving the show a sleek feel. It’s an intelligent, orthodox reading, with threats of chaos and violence dominating the opening palace scenes. But things get peaceful in a hurry when we move to the Forest of Arden (a pastoral setting for love), to observe the frolics of four wooing couples, whose romances range from the noble to the absurd. Director Rebecca Dines presents the lovers for vivid language and physical comedy. There’s not much sexual heat, though sex certainly is implied. Dines retains several of the play’s quirks, including part of the speech by Hymen (god of marriage).
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday; $20-$65. Show dates are August 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21. Sand Harbor, on the Nevada shoreline southeast of Incline Village; (800) 74-SHOWS. J.H.
Fully Committed Think of this one-man “comedy of interruptions” as a high-speed endurance run. Your heart goes out to Sam, the stressed-out reservations specialist manning the constantly ringing phones in the basement of a popular, upscale restaurant. The frantic customers are desperate to get a table, while the staff upstairs keeps barking contradictory commands. It’s also a test for versatile actor Gary Alan Wright, who constantly shifts between portraying the long-suffering Sam (running between three phones and an intercom) and the three dozen other characters who pound him with demands. Wright rises to the occasion.
Foothill Theatre Company; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $19-$23. 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587. Through August 15. J.H.
Much Ado About Nothing It’s the battle of the sexes, as strong-willed Beatrice (Rebecca Dines) and Benedick (Dan Hiatt) are led to the altar despite their protestations. Dines and Hiatt, who have credits with major companies in the Bay Area and elsewhere, give this production a pair of very capable, smart and sexy leads. Hiatt also plays Dogberry (though you might not recognize him). Director Philip C. Sneed moves the setting to Sausalito in 1899, where American soldiers are returning from war in the Philippines. (There’s even a flag-draped coffin solemnly carried on stage in the first scene.) The shift opens the way for a bit of ragtime, some Chinese paper lanterns and other interesting touches.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday; $20-$65. Show dates are August 12, 14, 18, 20 and 22. Sand Harbor, on the Nevada shoreline southeast of Incline Village; (800) 74-SHOWS. J.H.
The Sacramento 2Page Play Festival Think of this as an evening of miniatures. There are 24 little plays, none more than five minutes long and most featuring two-character dialogues that deal with love (or flirtation, or pregnancy) in various comic styles. The titles, like Death Rides a Bicycle and God Meets the Speech Therapist, give some hint of what’s in store. The bottom line is that this is a diverse, low-budget showcase for 10 actors from Evan Nossoff’s classes, ranging from skinny teens to graying middle-agers—many in a show for the first time. Give ’em credit, because even though many of the participants are rookies, this unassuming show delivers a good measure of fun.
William Geery Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $9.50 or $49 for a “SixTixPak.” 2130 L Street, (916) 451-4152. Extended through August 21. J.H.
Smoke on the Mountain This faith-based musical about the antics of a family of traveling singers is really just a showcase for some old-fashioned gospel music, peppered with a bit of comic preaching and scripture-based one-upmanship. It’s campy, silly and full of promise that doesn’t quite deliver. Going in, you pray such a well-intentioned production will succeed, but sadly this Smoke has no fire. God knows this is an earnest cast full of enthusiasm and love for the music, but the majority of the cast has very limited stage experience, and the script is both hokey and pokey. On the plus side, you’re sure to leave humming a gospel tune or two.
Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with dinner at 6 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Sunday with brunch at 1 p.m.; $29-$39 for show and meal or $20 for show only. 12401 Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, (916) 985-6361. Through August 22. P.R.
The Underpants There’s a lot of Steve Martin in this broad comedy filled with sexual innuendoes, crazy characters and slapstick humor. Martin adapted a classic 1910 German farce about a young wife who loses her knickers just as the king rides by, creating a social scandal and marital upheaval. Underwear humor becomes a running gag and sets an over-the-top tone. Adding to the madcap mayhem are a nosey neighbor, a couple of randy roommates and the king himself. There isn’t an ounce of subtlety or a smidgen of sophistication to be found, but amusing absurdities abound.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; $25. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Extended through August 22. P.R.
While We Were Bowling The setting is Buffalo, N.Y., in 1957. Playwright Carter W. Lewis begins his script by dishing up images of family domesticity paralleling the TV comedies of the time. But life was never that tidy, and several underlying family issues you couldn’t dwell on in a ’50s TV comedy come spilling out, albeit in a gently funny way: alcoholism, marriage at 17, closeted homosexuality, and racism, among others. The playwright’s take on each is sentimental and not particularly deep, but the simple presence of these topics gives the show a bit more bite than most summer laughers. What lifts this production into a high category are the sharp performances by B Street regulars Julia Brothers, John Lamb, Kurt Johnson, Dana Brooke and Greg Alexander, who are by now familiar with director Buck Busfield’s nimble style.
B Street Theatre; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $18.50-$23.50. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through September 5. J.H.