As You Like It Most California festivals stage Shakespeare with modern updates, but this Sierra Shakespeare Festival 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).
Fred Forsman Amphitheatre; 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday; $19-$23. Show dates are September 9, 11, 17 and 19. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (530) 265-8587. J.H.
The Colored Museum This is a series of clever vignettes that delves into various aspects of black history and culture. Each of the 11 “exhibits” comes alive with sharp observations, memorable characters and a wry sense of humor. The good news about this production is that the talented five-member cast not only has obvious affection for the material, but also has an incredible “show-must-go-on” spirit. The latter attribute is imperative to this production, which on opening night was plagued with so many technical glitches it looked like the first run-through with the tech team. Here’s hoping they can get these acts together.
Celebration Arts Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $13-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787. Through September 25. P.R.
Much Ado About Nothing The Sierra Shakespeare Festival stages this 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 onstage in the first scene.) The shift opens the way for a bit of ragtime, some Chinese paper lanterns and other interesting touches.
Fred Forsman Amphitheatre; 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday; $19-$23. Show dates are September 10, 12, 16 and 18. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (530) 265-8587. J.H.
Much Ado About Nothing Amador County’s Main Street Theatre Works—a 10-year-old, “heads up” community theater company that unfortunately lost its lease on an art-deco-era performance space last year—resurfaces in a lovely new venue with this production. The Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre is a little gem of an outdoor space, with grassy terraces, mature oaks and a temporary stage. This summer’s show is a solid, straightforward, accessible interpretation of a classic Shakespeare comedy in comparatively traditional vein. Several veteran Sacramento community actors have leading roles (including Julie Anchor as Beatrice, Allen Pontes as Benedick and Ron Adams as Leonato).
Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $8-$15. Bring your own folding lawn chairs and a sweater. Gates open for picnicking at 6:30 p.m., with an informal “Bard Talk” at 7:15 p.m. Access via North Main Street, off Highway 49 in Jackson; (209) 243-6789. Through September 11. J.H.
Real Women Have Curves This Latino comedy, produced by Teatro Espejo and California Stage, features five women who work in a miserably hot, low-paying sweatshop, making expensive dresses that will be bought by skinny Anglo women at department stores. The women making the dresses are well aware that they couldn’t fit into these skimpy garments, even if they could afford them. The laughs spring from frank discussions of body size and shape (including a hilarious scene involving a comparison of ample hips and stretch marks), their cravings for food, how they lost their virginity, how they get along with men, etc. Playwright Josefina Lopez establishes each character as symbolic of a type of woman. There’s the 40-ish matron with eight children, the young single girl determined to get a college education and become a writer, and so on. Director Manuel Pickett compensates by keeping the mood spontaneous and the situation fluid. There are good performances by the all-female cast of community actresses.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$15. 1725 25th Street, (916) 451-5822. Through September 19. J.H.
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. 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; 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.