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 10 and 17); $22-$28. B2 Stage, 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through September 4. P.R.
Crumbs from the Table of Joy This beautifully written memory play describes a transplanted African-American family in New York around 1950. A recent widower has left the Deep South (and his own wild ways) behind and has started over in a new and quite religious life. And he’s brought his teenage daughters with him. But his late wife’s sister turns up—and she’s a leftist, prototype feminist who isn’t averse to jazz and drinking. When conflict inevitably arises, the widower gets into a surprise marriage and further unsettles the household. The play is staged with low-key charm. Actress Chenelle Doutherd shines as the widower’s shy elder daughter, who is torn between her rural past and urban present. She tells us what really happened to this very interesting family, as well as the way she wishes things had turned out.
Celebration Arts; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $13-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787. Through August 27. J.H.
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; 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 staged simply, 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 Comedy of Errors Oft staged at summer festivals, Comedy always features two sets of twins and a lot of mistaken identity. Directors like to move the setting to different eras, and Carolyn Howarth places this fast-paced, irreverent production in the Wild, Wild West with blazing six-guns, 10-gallon hats and a frustrated wife in a pink Annie Oakley outfit who proves that even cowgirls get the blues. You’ll need a scorecard to keep track of all the pop-culture references and zany add-ons. Shakespeare purists (a dying breed) may offer a few objections but likely will forgive the director because the show is so funny.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; 8 p.m. August 5, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21, and 7:30 p.m. August 9, 10, 16 and 18; $14-$67. Sand Harbor State Park, three miles south of Incline Village in Nevada, (800) 74-SHOWS, www.laketahoeshakespeare.com. The show continues as part of the Sierra Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. August 27 and September 2, 8 and 10, and 4:30 p.m. September 4; $10-$23. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (888) 730-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. J.H.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Part 1 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, (510) 548-9666. Through September 18. J.H.
Macbeth Director Lynne Collins helms the greater Sacramento region’s first professional mounting of this dark, intense tragedy in more than a decade. Actor Philip Charles Sneed is the right man for the title role. Sneed takes us through Macbeth’s transformation from a powerful warrior into a monstrously paranoid, ruthless monarch. Watching the transformation is like seeing a house go up in flames. Collins doesn’t overplay the occult aspects, leaving Macbeth’s bloody rise and devastating fall as the central focus. The moonlight lakeside setting, with the actors’ voices echoing off the nearby granite mountainside, is a lovely addition.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; 8 p.m. August 6, 12 and 19, and 7:30 p.m. August 4, 10 and 17; $14-$64. Sand Harbor State Park, three miles south of Incline Village in Nevada, (800) 74-SHOWS, www.laketahoeshakespeare.com. The show continues as part of the Sierra Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. August 26 and September 1, 3, 9 and 10, and 4:30 p.m. August 28; $10-$23. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (888) 730-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. 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.