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. Thursday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday; $22-$28. B2 Stage, 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Extended through September 11. P.R.
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.
Sierra Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. September 8 and 10; $10-$23. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (888) 730-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. J.H.
The Gin Game A card game is a perfect dramatic device. Two people can communicate through their playing styles and in the chitchat that happens between hands. This two-character play, set in a dilapidated senior-citizens home, highlights the humor and the pathos of two gin-rummy players with completely different attitudes toward the game. It’s a slice of senior life, but don’t confuse it with a warm, go-gently-into-the-good-night look at the aging process; these two are a prickly pair. The two stars are perfectly matched. Ed Claudio is the crusty Weller, and Hazel Johnson is his equal in her delicate performance as the quiet, tough-as-nails Fonsia.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$15. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through September 25. P.R.
Hate Mail Preston, not happy with his snow-globe purchase, writes a brusque letter to the store manager for a refund. She’s just as curt writing back. Thus starts a war of the words and the beginning of a perverse relationship. Hate Mail is a glib alternative to the theater classic Love Letters, with a similar dramatic premise: a dialogue between two characters exchanged through letters. But this is a twisted version, with two rather unsympathetic characters battling it out through letters, notes and e-mails. The play is a bit superficial, but the repartees are clever and wicked.
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; $20-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through September 25. P.R.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Part 2 California Shakespeare’s epic production is expansive and enthralling. Part 2 is even bigger than Part 1, covering three-and-a half hours (with two short intermissions) and featuring a cast of 24 actors. Nickleby is a vast, intricate tapestry, with a dark view of business-driven Victorian society balanced by the bright, fragile goodness of human nature. And it’s illustrated through a melodramatic (but absorbing) story that shows us the decadence of the idle rich, the desperate lives of the poor, and the wrenching transition when someone falls abruptly from the former category into the latter. Don’t miss this outstanding, rare event that people will be talking about for years. Parts 1 and 2 will be staged in repertory during mid-September.
California Shakespeare Theatre, performance times vary, $35-$55. Outdoors in the often-chilly Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, 100 Gateway Boulevard in Orinda, (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org. 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.
Sierra Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. September 1, 3, 9 and 10; $10-$23. Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, (888) 730-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. J.H.
The Rainmaker This latter-day Western dates from the 1950s, and some of the language is a tad dated. But the story—which deals with overcoming entrenched negative relationships and allowing yourself to take a chance on romance—feels contemporary. When the long drought (a lack of rain and a lack of love) finally breaks, everyone feels the lift. This production benefits from its outdoor venue (chirping crickets and a starry sky) and a big, attractive set, but it’s the performances that close the deal. Most noteworthy are Michael Claudio (as the dubious but charming “rainmaker”) and Dale Lisa Flint (as the “plain Jane” daughter who comes out of her shell). Bring your own lawn chair and a picnic.
Main Street Theatre Works, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, $10-$15. Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre, on N. Main Street in Jackson, www.mstw.org. Through September 17. J.H.