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.
As You Like It Sacramento City College’s City Theatre celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival with one of Shakespeare’s earliest works. As You Like It has all of the Bard’s comedic trademarks: dueling dukes, banished brothers, mistaken identities, randy romances and a happy ending. Director Kim McCann places the action in 1740 and dresses the actors in handsome pre-Revolutionary garb. It might be a bit unrealistic, but it’s great fun to watch, especially in the capable hands of the two talented leads. We are also treated to other quirky romances, a World Wrestling Entertainment-style wrestling match, and a memorable “all the world’s a stage” soliloquy.
William A. Carroll Amphitheatre; gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the show is at 8:30 p.m. on July 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 28 and 30; $10-$15. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. P.R.
The Bacchae In a summer awash with little comedies and light musicals, producer Ray Tatar gives us a big-cast production of a Greek tragedy, replete with ecstatic, dancing female Bacchants—one of whom carries a severed head. It’s the cautionary tale of a skeptical Greek king who doesn’t heed the warning that it’s not smart to buck the authority of a god, even when the god is the anarchic Dionysus (patron of wine, fertility and theater). Performances range from passable to engrossing. There’s an attractive, sprawling set by Gregory Kondos, as well as some funky sound design and other unpolished aspects. But, on the whole, the plusses outnumber the minuses, and it’s a treat to see a script that predated Christ (by about 400 years) brought to life.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $13-$15. 25th and R streets, (916) 451-5822. Through July 17. 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. 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 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.
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 13 and 20; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through August 7. 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.
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.