Mahalia When actress Elise Reese is singing (in her role as the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson), this show is a joy. And music makes up about half the show. But when Reese stops singing, and the show turns into a routinely written docudrama with actors who have a bit of trouble with their lines, the experience leaves something to be desired. We’ll give Mahalia a “good” rating overall—just keep in mind that you’re in for some ups and downs during this inconsistent show. See it to remember (or, if you’re young, experience for the first time) what a remarkable, enormously popular performer Jackson was during the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoy the gospel standards that she made her own, like “Elijah Rock” and “I Will Move On Up a Little Higher.”
Celebration Arts Theatre, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, $8-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787. Extended through January 15. J.H.
Many Happy Returns Following tradition, this year’s B Street Theatre holiday offering is quirky, kinky and completely off-kilter, focusing on the dysfunctional families that light up like Christmas trees this time of year. A Dublin couple await the return of a local-boy-does-good so they can manipulate him at a Christmas get-together. Of course, craziness ensues. At center stage are the age-old holiday traditions: drinking, sex and arguing. The humor is fun and naughty, though it missteps when the guest of honor crosses the line from idiot to abusive asshole. Be aware that the humor is more Bad Santa than Santa Claus.
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 January 8. P.R.
Queen of the Remote Control Seventeen-year-old Shilpa feels, like, totally misunderstood by her ever-present parents—both highly successful doctors from India. Though hers is an Indian household, Shilpa takes on the petulant attitude of an overindulged American teen by sulking, sighing and “whatever”-ing at every turn. But because she’s smart and funny, and has a creative way of looking at life through the lens of a TV addict, Shilpa’s self-involvement is more entertaining than exasperating. Her maturity begins with the revelation of family secrets. There are impressive performances by young actress Roshni Shukla as Shilpa and Saffron Henke as her mother.
Sacramento Theatre Company’s Stage Two; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $22-$32. 1419 H Street, (916) 443-6722. Through January 8. P.R.