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: An Oral History of the Great Depression. 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.
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.
Pageant The Studio Theatre pays homage to cheesy, tacky beauty pageants. Watch “giddy girls” compete to be Miss Glamouresse in this over-the-top pageant complete with bathing-suit, evening-gown and talent competitions. We also get an over-earnest emcee, back-stabbing antics, questionable talents, and judges who are picked from the audience. The twist is that all the contestants are men portraying women, which makes it fun. The cast embraces the concept with endless enthusiasm and energy. However, the musical never really lives up to its potential, with mild, safe and silly humor. What saves it is the good-hearted intention of both the endearing, multitalented cast and the animated audience.
Studio Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $16-$21. 1028 R Street, (916) 446-2668. Through December 19. P.R.
The Vagina Monologues This play with the gutsy title takes a taboo subject matter—a basic body part of every woman—and makes it acceptable to talk about. For this production by SacActors.com, three talented actresses trade off monologues in front of deep-red velvet panels. The performances examine not only the word, but also the body part, and all the shame, power, fear and beauty that vagina owners carry with them. The play is funny, sad, angry, empowering and, most of all, great fodder for after-show conversations.
Geery Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12.50-$14.50. 2130 L Street, (916) 451-4152. Through December 19. P.R.