The Beggers’ Strike Director Buck Busfield charts a somewhat different course for the Children’s Theatre of California. This story’s set in Africa, it features beggars, and it’s longer and a bit more abstract than previous productions. The music, dancing and costumes give the show plenty of appeal for kids (and parents), while the somewhat philosophical “giving to receive” theme comes through quite nicely—even for the younger kids. It’s also nice to see a sympathetic depiction of Islam onstage. The good, largely black cast features a combination of local and out-of-town talent.
Children’s Theatre of California; 7 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $15-$20. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through March 13. J.H.
The Glass Menagerie The Glass Menagerie spotlights Tennessee Williams’ writing, his fragile characters and the heartbreaking conditions of the human spirit. Tom is looking for a way out of his warehouse job. He wants to write, but he is financially responsible for his abandoned mother and mentally ill sister. He’s a prisoner of major guilt, expertly fed by his domineering mother. There are some bumps along the way—slow pacing and some disconnect between the characters—but you’ll leave this production under the spell of the tenuous world of Tennessee Williams.
Actor’s Theatre of Sacramento; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through March 20. P.R.
Jack and Jill Delta King Theatre deftly delivers what it’s best known for: an accessible play that examines relationships, most notably the yin and yang of men and women. This time we’re watching Jack and Jill’s relationship going up the hill and back down a couple of times. Director Peter Mohrmann keeps a tight rein on the quick scenes, sharp repartees, clever staging and smart performances by the two leads. However, even with solid performances, neither actor can make these unsympathetic characters likable. Jack and Jill’s drama becomes wearisome. By the end, you really don’t care if their relationship lasts.
Delta King Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $18-$22. 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Though March 6. P.R.
A Lesson Before Dying This very interesting play, based on a novel by noted black writer Ernest J. Gaines, doesn’t live up to all of its potential in this particular production. The story, set in Louisiana in 1948, involves a young black convict awaiting execution for a crime he didn’t commit. What’s at issue is not his innocence; it’s a question of how he’s going to handle himself as he goes to the electric chair and whether he’ll accept the counsel of his friends. Racism, education, religion and whether it’s better to move to California or to stay in the rural South and help your people are among the issues raised. This production is hampered by occasionally choppy direction and a few glitches in the acting, but it still has a lot to say.
Chautauqua Playhouse; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on March 13, 20 and 27; $11-$12. 5325 Engle Road in Carmichael, (916) 489-7529. Through April 2. J.H.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Playwright August Wilson looks at the “race records” business of the 1920s, when blues music was being recorded for the first time. There isn’t a wrong note in the casting. Not only is every single performance on the mark, but also the actors’ interaction with each other is seamless—making you feel like a lucky fly on the wall at a historical jam session. We get to witness musicians and singers joshing and jiving, illustrating tight friendships and revealing individual stories.
City Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, with additional performances on March 12, 17 and 19; $10-$12. Sacramento City College, 3835 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 558-2228. Through March 20. 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 April 17. P.R.