Big River The Broadway Series offers this handsome musical by Deaf West Theatre, based on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. It features deaf and hard-of-hearing performers alongside speaking actors. Everybody uses American Sign Language, and it all merges seamlessly. The late Roger Miller’s score is heartland Americana—combining fiddles and guitars with gospel, bluegrass and Nashville styles. What elevates Big River to a sublime rating is its faithfulness to Twain’s dark, probing, honest original. Many musicals feature a lead who is arrested and goes to jail. In this one, runaway slave Big Jim is captured at gunpoint, chained and sold to a farmer for $40. Slavery is a truth out of American history that’s typically omitted onstage. Contrast this with the 1999 Broadway Series show about Al Jolson, in which the actor playing Jolson never put on blackface. It was politically correct by modern lights, but it was also total historical amnesia.
Sacramento Community Center Theatre, various show times and ticket prices. 1301 L Street, (916) 557-1999. Through February 6.
Dear Brutus Peter Pan playwright J.M. Barrie is currently front stage center with the movie Finding Neverland, the recent touring version of Peter Pan and now a local production of one of his lesser-known plays. Dear Brutus has fantasy aspects like Peter Pan, though it deals with adult protagonists and subject matters. It’s an odd play about a group of people who have life regrets and are offered a trip into magical woods that gives them a chance to see how things would have worked out if they had taken different paths. The Actor’s Theatre has produced a well-acted, thoughtful and funny version of this strange and wishful fantasy-comedy-drama.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through February 6. P.R.
Kimberly Akimbo Kimberly counts her birthdays in dog years because she’s afflicted with a rare disorder that causes her to age prematurely. Although she’s just 16, she looks like a senior citizen and has reached her life expectancy. At times, this coming-of-age tale teeters on sitcom silliness, with unsympathetic characters, unrealistic scenarios and crass language. What saves it is the ultimate goodness of its central character. Senior actress Cec Levinson does a wonderful job of embodying adolescent awkwardness while copping the petulant teen ’tude. When the plot and characters don’t gel, you always have the cutting, clever humor—which saves many a scene.
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. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through February 27. P.R.
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.
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. Extended through February 27. P.R.
Tibet Through the Red Box This year’s annual show by the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS) is a delightful surprise. It’s based on a prizewinning children’s book about a boy in grim, Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia whose father is lost in exotic, Chinese-occupied Tibet. Don’t jump to the conclusion that this is a didactic story. Rather, it’s an exotic, unpredictable fantasy with seriously Buddhist ramifications. See 10-foot-tall abominable snowmen, a talking cat (supple Wanda Shiotsuka), incredibly wise Tibetan monks and more. Everything’s seen through a Czech boy’s eye. There’s a message, but it’s never pushy. Strong community acting, professional costumes by Seattle Children’s Theatre, and inspired direction by Diane Fetterly make this show worth the drive. There’s also “flying” on wires, à la Peter Pan, and live pan-Asian music by Bruce Morishita and Daniel Allen.
Nevada Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; $10-$17. 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, www.catsweb.org. Through February 12.
Top Girls This odd and disconcerting play invites the audience members to be voyeurs at a congratulatory dinner that a 1980s superwoman gives herself. The dinner—which includes famous women from throughout history—carries the underlying theme that women pay a high price for their success. The playwright starts with the dinner and then switches to modern-day exploits. Although fascinating, the play fails to always connect, because the author veers in too many directions. But we get some great performances.
City Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $7-$12. Sacramento City College, 3835 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 558-2228. Through February 6. 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 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. Extended through February 27. P.R.