And to All a Good Night Buck Busfield has revived one his best holiday plays (first mounted at the B Street Theatre in 1997), and it’s even funnier the second time around. The play has hardly changed, but the times we live in have shifted. The self-important character of pastor Calvin Ridges has transformed from a do-gooder liberal into a compassionate conservative (played this time by Michael Stevenson, who’s excellent). There’s good give-and-take between actors Kurt Johnson and Dave Pierini as a pair of hapless thieves on Christmas Eve, and there’s an all-too-rare appearance by wise old Mitch Agruss as that fellow who shows up on the 25th.
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; $20-$25. Additional shows are at 2 p.m. on December 8 and 22; and at 7 p.m. on December 19 and 26, and January 2. No performances on Christmas or New Year’s Day. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through January 2. J.H.
Backwater Park El Dorado County’s Laurie Blazich has written an engaging first play that operates on two levels. Plot-wise, it’s a timely polemic about leapfrogging development that threatens to displace a tumbledown neighborhood with a shopping center full of chain stores. Deeper down, the play is a portrait of the quirky, privacy-prizing characters (old and young) who live in the aging bungalows that stand in the way of “progress.” Blazich weaves a mother-son relationship, three romances (gay, straight and platonic) and a loopy loser amid the political maneuvering. The first half’s kind of slow and talky, as characters are established, but the second half opens with a vivid scene at a board-of-supervisors meeting. It’s both dramatic and realistic, as the play comes into its own.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through December 5. J.H.
Frog and Toad This sparkling little musical—ostensibly for kids, but with broader appeal—features the two actors SN&R recognized in the recent Best of Sacramento issue for “Best theatrical performances by big men.” Rick Kleber and Peter Story strike up quite a buddy relationship while going swimming, baking cookies, raking leaves and sledding. It’s excellent material. The script (based on a well-known children’s book) and Broadway-style score were Tony nominees in 2003. Director Greg Alexander and choreographer Jackie Schultz keep things bright, brisk and bouncy. Look for Jeff Asch as the snail with the mail who “puts the go in escargot.”
Children’s Theatre of California; 7 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $15 for children and $20 for adults. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through January 9. J.H.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol Playwright Tom Mula, who has played Scrooge in hundreds of performances in Chicago, retells the tale from the viewpoint of Jacob Marley. Marley’s ghost reluctantly attempts a mission impossible: reforming his former business partner. Mula combines familiar Dickensian dialogue with his own inventions. Several new scenes are dark verbal glimpses into hell. This is not a show for kids, but there’s a lyrical, impish wit at work here, and it’s quite attractive. Director Stephanie Gularte gets a lot from her cast, including perky Jamie Jones and versatile Lucinda Hitchcock Cone. But it’s Harry Harris who carries the show on his broad shoulders (and malleable voice) as Marley.
Delta King Theatre; 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $45-$52 for show and meal, or $18-$25 for show only. 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Through December 24. 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. 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.
Return to the Forbidden Planet This science-fiction William Shakespeare spoof is fun, funky and fabulously weird. It’s a sendup of the cheesy 1950s B-movie space flick Forbidden Planet, but it also loosely tweaks Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Plus, it’s a musical that cleverly pays homage to 1950s and 1960s rock ’n’ roll while shamelessly shooting Shakespeare puns about. Add a hot live band, and what’s not to love?
City Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, with special matinees at 2 p.m. on December 4, 9 and 11; $7-$12. Art Court Theatre at Sacramento City College, 3835 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 558-2228. Through December 12. P.R.
The Trials of Clarence Darrow There’s a lot of food for thought in this one-man show, which highlights local artist Paul Hauck as both a playwright and a community actor. Hauck’s script is impressive. It’s a deep, meaty look into the complex life of a great lawyer, social activist and skeptic, from his early days in the labor movement to the famous Scopes trial and his civil-rights work. Hauck’s given himself a tough row to hoe; he looks spent by the end of this lengthy monologue. This could be an embodiment of Darrow’s world-weary later years, or just an exhausted actor who’s been on his feet for nearly two hours. Probably both!
Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $22-$24 including dessert. Reservations are required. 1901 P Street, (916) 444-8209. Through December 11. J.H.
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.