Adventures in Shakespeareland; or How Willy Ruined My Life This musical revue by Synergy Stage plays around with William Shakespeare’s famous characters, particularly those from Hamlet. More specifically, the show lampoons fusty, declamatory, “academic” Shakespeare—a style not often found in theaters nowadays but still lingering in memory, celluloid and parody. The songs, with piano accompaniment, include settings of sonnets as well as takeoffs on Romeo, Juliet and Cleopatra. There are some campy costumes, onstage death scenes, etc. It’s a good-natured show, but the frothy concept isn’t substantial enough to sustain two hours.
Studio Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $17-$19. 1028 R Street, (916) 446-2668. Through July 24. J.H.
The Big Bang This madcap, zany romp, which traces man’s history from creation to present day, looks as fun to put on as it is to watch. Not only do two actors portray everyone from Adam and Eve to Napoleon and Josephine in this 23-song musical, but also they use everyday items for costumes—grabbing curtains, vases and pillows for personal props. The premise is simple yet wacky. In hopes of enticing big spenders to back their extravaganza, the two actors present a condensed version for potential backers, playing all the parts themselves. Everyone is skewered, no race or religion is spared, the double entendres fly, and the jokes are both naughty and groan-producing. It’s not for the thin-skinned, the overly sensitive or anyone looking for deep and meaningful messages, but it is for audiences looking for madcap mayhem and zany antics in their summer entertainment.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday (with 1 p.m. Wednesday matinees on July 6, 13, 20 and 27; and August 3, 10 and 17); $22-$28. B2 Stage, 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through September 4. P.R.
Bright Ideas Ours is a landscape dotted with obsessive moms and dads who believe the only acceptable kid is the exceptional kid. It’s a phenomenon that’s ripe for comedic picking, which playwright Eric Coble does with mischievous gusto. His dark farce highlights tightly wound parents who are fixated on getting their toddler into the perfect preschool. Unfortunately, Coble’s Bright Ideas eventually runs out of them. What saves this production is not only the humorous first half (and some clever moments in the second), but also a finely tuned cast and director who do their best with the material handed to them. This cast of B Street regulars puts the “fun” in dysfunctional.
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, with Wednesday matinees July 6-20; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through August 7. P.R.
A Doll’s House Even though they debuted as a couple more than 125 years ago, Nora and Torvald Helmer would have felt right at home on Wisteria Lane. This just-promoted banker and his adorable, adoring wife are the picture of suburban contentment, if there had been suburbs when Henrik Ibsen created this couple for his 1879 play. And, just like those housewives on the hit television show, behind Nora’s perfect facade is a desperate housewife embroiled in secrets, lies and blackmail. What director Ed Claudio wisely does in this production is to humanize the Torvald character, making the husband less brutish and more, well, desperate himself. And Nora’s layers are exposed slowly, painfully and realistically, so the quick disintegration of the marriage is more sad than empowering.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through July 3. P.R.
Ganked Local playwright William A. Parker’s new project, Young Voices, is a black youth-theater startup serving the South Sacramento and Elk Grove area. The group’s first production is a one-hour morality play about a high-school athlete (Robert Andrews, in a charismatic performance) who’s dumping his girl as he leaves town on a football scholarship. The girlfriend (Zenetta Sheppard) is heading for college but develops a serious heartache. And then she gets pregnant. What should they do? This production lacks polish and subtlety, but it speaks from the heart to a real-world situation. Parker’s scenes of high-school kids hanging out have a loose, natural feel that wins you over. This is a project we hope will prosper.
Monterey Trail High School; 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $6-$8. Use the back entrance to the campus on Cliffcrest Drive, south of Calvine Road in Elk Grove; (916) 271-8202. Extended through July 10. J.H.
Othello This summer’s professional Shakespeare season begins with this well-staged, small-cast production in Orinda. Director Sean Daniels gives us a youthful Othello (actor Billy Eugene Jones). There’s fresh sexual heat between the young Moor and his new Italian wife, Desdemona (Sarah Grace Wilson). Iago (Bruce McKenzie) is a twitchy mid-ranking officer who’s nursing a big grudge over a lost promotion. Lighting designer Scott Zielinski also does “fade to black” with great effect. Director Daniels’ only serious mistake is the use of vapid music in climactic scenes; Othello’s final, solitary moments with the body of his wife are weakened by a sappy pop tune.
California Shakespeare Theater; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday; $10-$55. Bruns Memorial Amphitheatre, 100 Gateway Boulevard in Orinda, (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org. Through July 3. J.H.
Wings of Freedom This original musical by the recently formed Images Theatre Company (a black theater group) was created by three artists associated with And The Dream Goes On!, the landmark show revived last January by California Musical Theatre. This new show is smaller by design. Set in a scruffy neighborhood, it deals with addiction and facing one’s personal demons, with outcomes ranging from recovery to early death. The first half is long and talky (just four songs in 70 minutes). The second half is a significant improvement, with lively acting, a better balance between spoken dialogue and music, and several uplifting songs by Charles Cooper.
Chautauqua Playhouse; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday (except Sunday, July 10, when the showtime is 6 p.m.); $13-$15. La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road in Carmichael, (916) 489-7529. Through July 16. J.H.