The Apple Tree This three-act musical exploring love hasn’t been revived much since its Broadway debut in 1966, and it soon becomes clear why. The main problem is the unmemorable songs, which all start sounding the same. The Diary of Adam and Eve is a humorous look at the first man-woman conflicts. The Lady or The Tiger is based on the famous short story about love and hard choices. The third act is Passionella, a quirky modern version of Cinderella. You may not be whistling any of the tunes as you leave, but the talented cast, crew and director make it an enjoyable night of outdoor entertainment.
Fair Oaks Theatre Festival, 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, $13-$15. Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre at California Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Fair Oaks Village, (916) 966-3683. Through August 7. P.R.
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 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 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.
Catch The Lambda Players deliberately court controversy with this uninhibited play about gay men seeking to become HIV-positive. The show is uncommonly frank in terms of explicit sexual situations, with a lot of male nudity. It’s about changing attitudes, as well as the complacence and misunderstanding that has followed the advent of new drugs that allow HIV-positive individuals to live longer, more normal lives with the virus. Though the show is simply staged, it conveys its story and message with power and candor. Arlon Carlson gives a vivid performance as a middle-aged man who’s old enough to remember the AIDS terror of the 1980s and can’t understand the attitudes of some younger men today.
Lambda Players Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $13-$15. 2427 17th Street, (916) 444-8229. Through August 6. J.H.
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.
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 29 and 31; $10-$15. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. P.R.
Seascape with Sharks and Dancer This summer’s sleeper is an odd (yet curiously involving) bittersweet love story, featuring Michael Claudio playing a quiet librarian and Alexandra Ralph as the disturbed young woman he pulls out of the sea at 4 a.m. The loving but highly dysfunctional relationship that emerges is unlikely, and a lot of what’s said is calculated for effect. Playwright Don Nigro sets up vivid monologues containing statements that aren’t always what they seem and lets reality seep into the play indirectly. The two actors make this extended duet an absorbing experience, with guidance from co-directors David Pierini of the B Street Theatre and Ed Claudio.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through August 14. J.H.