The American Clock Playwright Arthur Miller showcases smaller stories to illustrate major social issues in this play with music, based in part on Studs Terkel’s book about the Great Depression, Hard Times. The story follows the Baum family, which slides from Manhattan affluence to threadbare bankruptcy, but this 22-actor drama features many other characters and scenes along the way. Director Frank Condon keeps the story flowing, the musical numbers entertaining, the acting fresh and the plot meaningful. Costume designer Nancy Pipkin created more than 130 outfits for the show. It’s an impressive, ambitious, handsome and entertaining launch of River Stage’s 10th season.
River Stage; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $13-$15. Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway, (916) 691-7364. Through November 14. P.R.
Bunnicula The Children’s Theatre of California clearly is counting on a Halloween tie-in for Bunnicula, but, frankly, we wish they’d picked a better script. The popular children’s book is a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the Gothic novel of horror, but Jon Klein’s adaptation turns out like a retread of The Simpsons. The setting, a typical home, doesn’t leave much room for adventure. The title character never says a word—which you can handle in a written narrative but proves problematic onstage. And there’s not much of a resolution at the end. These shortcomings are partially balanced out by the energetic performances of Rick Kleber, Anna Ambrose, John Lamb and Mindy Stover, plus Amy Resnick, manipulating a Bunnicula puppet (created by local puppet master Richard Bay) like a Japanese bunraku performer.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $15-$20. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through October 31. J.H.
By the Bog of Cats The scariest show in town has nothing to do with Halloween. This play by prizewinning Dublin writer Marina Carr resets Medea in dirt-poor rural Ireland, working in moments of Celtic verbal levity and wit amid the larger tragic framework of the story. Actress Janis Stevens is a powerhouse in the central role, glaring with vengeful anger through furrowed eyebrows and long black hair. She makes this dark journey compelling and intense, even though the outcome is foretold from the get-go. Many members of the strong supporting cast have worked in film or played leading roles in local community productions. It’s a talented group performing in a 50-seat venue, largely as a labor of love.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; $15-$19. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-5822. Through November 14. J.H.
Deathtrap Deathtrap made its debut in 1978, but it has all the earmarks of earlier mystery parlor plays. It has five characters: a playwright, his wife, his writing student, his lawyer and a neighborhood psychic. The plot is simple. Successful playwright Sydney Bruhl hasn’t had a hit in years and is facing paralyzing writer’s block. He blurts out, “I’d kill to have a successful play!” Sydney’s wife, Myra, laughs uncomfortably, and so do we. Sydney’s writing student, Clifford, mails him one of only two copies of a wonderful play he’s written. A juicy murder takes place, but watch out for twists, turns and red herrings.
Delta King Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$22, with dinner and brunch packages available. 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Through November 7. P.R.
Lobby Hero This tale of a likeable loser is laugh-out-loud funny with clever writing, memorable characters and a winning cast. It’s a story of two security guards and a couple of cops in a swank Manhattan apartment lobby who face personal dilemmas during a murder investigation. Jeff the security guard is an inspired central character—a lonely, charming schlump with absolutely no filter on his mouth. In a nonstop faucet of words, he innocently bumbles into verbal minefields while being wise by complete accident.
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. Extended through October 31. P.R.
The Music Man It’s a big community effort at Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre, with more than two dozen people in the cast; a nine-piece band; and costumes, costumes, costumes. The stage can barely contain all the activity! If you enjoy songs like “76 Trombones” and “Ya Got Trouble,” you’ll almost certainly find yourself tapping your toe and enjoying this energetic dinner-theater revival.
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.; $24-$39 for show and meal or $20 for show only. 12401 Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova, (916) 985-6361. Through November 7. J.H.
The Nerd This comedy by playwright Larry Shue has become a regular on the community-theater circuit. The question is “Why?” Although the premise of a nebbish trying to deal with an irritating nerd is funny, it’s a one-note joke, interspersed with marginally funny characters and situations, outdated dialogue, old stereotypes and an implausible ending that is less than satisfying. That said, the Foothill Theatre Company presents a very good production of this not-so-good play, with a solid cast, good direction and a handsome set.
Foothill Theatre Company; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $11-$23. 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587. Through October 31. P.R.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Tom Stoppard’s brilliant recasting of Hamlet is seen from the view of two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who get sucked into a deadly struggle between powerful royals. Keep your wits about you because Stoppard’s dialogue is fast, witty and set against absurd situations with very dark overtones. When leading players Michael Claudio, Anthony D’Juan, Ed Claudio and Gabriel Montoya are at the fore, this show really shines on the strength of good acting and the script. The supporting cast, however, isn’t as consistent, and the technical aspects of the show are sometimes rudimentary. We recommend the show in any case.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Extended through October 31. J.H.
Under Milk Wood The Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre revives last year’s highly regarded production, with most of the same cast. Dylan Thomas’ 1953 radio play is basically a Welsh Lake Wobegon, with a narrator introducing us to the gossip and eccentric seaside villagers of Llareggub. The Milk Wood Players present an impressive production that gives honor to Thomas’ intent that words should be felt as well as heard. The strength of the writing is in the details and descriptions. And the strength of this production lies with both the talented actors and their imaginative director (Maggie Upton), who all clearly love and respect the work. This is for lovers of language and lyricism, though it can be quite dense at times and hard to follow.
Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $16-$22. 1901 P Street, (916) 444-8209. Through October 31. P.R.