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.
Darlene and The Guest Lecturer This show offers a pair of one-act comedies by A.R. Gurney, a playwright who’s made a career of writing about the relationships of middle-class married couples. Darlene is the story of one such couple, which falls into bickering over an anonymous love note left on the wife’s car. Actors Diane Goldman and Michael Wright struggle to bring credibility to Gurney’s too-clever language, leaving the scene with an uneven tone. The Guest Lecturer, a satire on American theater that includes sex, violence, and vodka by the pitcher, comes off better. Wright returns as the title character, opposite a deliberately overacted and quite funny performance by Sara Townsend. Energetic Gregg Collette and onstage pianist Jeff Schulz add much-needed color to the scene. However, neither play generates the punch necessary to move from a clever setup to a transporting story.
Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on September 12; $18-$22. 1901 P Street, (916) 444-8209. Through September 18. B.C.
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.
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.