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. 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.
William A. Carroll Amphitheatre; gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the show is at 8:30 p.m. on July 22, 28 and 30; $10-$15. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. P.R.
The Big Bang Two actors not only portray everyone from Adam and Eve to Napoleon and Josephine in this 23-song musical, but they also 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, 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 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; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through August 7. P.R.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Director Dale Lisa Flint picks the California gold rush as the setting for this production—a natural choice, given the historic mining equipment you walk past on your way into the Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre. The show features a solid group of experienced Sacramento actors in the leading roles, including Allen Pontes, Julie Anchor, Scott Devine, David Campfield and others. The show’s conclusion radiates serenity, as the various antagonistic issues that have led several pairs of lovers magically resolve.
Main Street Theatre Works, 8 p.m. on July 22 and 23, $10-$15. Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre on N. Main Street in Jackson, www.mstw.org. J.H.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Director Luther Hanson’s production of Dream for the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival takes us into a somewhat spooky, Celtic interpretation of the play’s fairy world. The various forest spirits wear Halloweenish masks and big, exaggerated ears, and they hiss at the human characters and play tricks on them. Hanson’s also working with a comparatively young cast—but that’s not really a problem with this script. Character actor James Roberts turns in a good performance as Bottom.
William A. Carroll Amphitheatre; gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the show is at 8:30 p.m. July 21, 24, 29 and 31; $10-$15. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. P.R.
The Music Man This is the quintessential musical, full of cornball dialogue, gee-whiz characters, an improbable romance and plenty of memorable tunes. In true Runaway Stage style, the production is a bit corny, with rolling plywood sets and some musical numbers not quite in sync, but the spirit of the cast makes this a winning production.
Runaway Stage Productions; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$17. 24th Street Theatre, 2791 24th Street, (916) 207-1226. Through July 24. P.R.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Part One California Shakespeare Theater pulls out all the stops in this enormous, remarkable production—the most elaborate show it’s ever staged. Playwright David Edgar has adapted his script (written for the landmark Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1980) for Cal Shakes’ beefed-up company of 23 actors, who play upward of 100 characters in elaborate costumes. Directors Jonathan Moscone and Sean Daniels give us a cavalcade of vivid Victorians, like a dour London moneylender; a cruel, illiterate Yorkshire schoolmaster; and Smike, a pitiable boy whose body is twisted by malnutrition and rickets. It’s good and evil, joy and heartbreak, love and betrayal—the whole shebang. Part one runs three hours and 15 minutes but seems much shorter. Part two opens on August 17.
California Shakespeare Theater, performance times vary, $35-$55. Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, 100 Gateway Boulevard in Orinda, www.calshakes.org or (510) 548-9666. Through September 18. J.H.
Summer Shorts Six punchy little plays about young, apparently single 20-somethings make up Beyond the Proscenium Productions’ summer show. The performers are a high-energy, easy-to-like group, and director Nick Avdienko gets them working in a good ensemble. But the plays aren’t very deep. They cover fairly standard topics like college stunts, not-so-super superheroes, bad behavior on trashy TV talk shows, and the behavioral eccentricities of struggling young writers. Usually, Beyond the Proscenium pushes the envelope into more adventuresome territory.
California Stage, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on August 7, $6-$12. 25th and R streets, (916) 456-1600. Through August 7. J.H.