Beneath the Moon, Beyond the Stars Buck Busfield’s new play—bearing the somewhat unwieldy title Beneath the Moon, Beyond the Stars—is a welcome change of pace for the B Street Theatre, which has relied a bit too heavily on lighthearted shows as of late. This one’s a bittersweet story of espionage with a British twist, set against the backdrop of World War II. An attractive young woman, skilled in languages but inexperienced as a spy, is selected for a high-risk mission into Nazi-occupied France. Busfield, as playwright and director, develops the atmosphere of tension that the situation implies. But, more important, he brings out a depth and humanity in his characters that hasn’t been evident in his earlier comedies, as the plot evolves from spy vs. spy into an illuminating tale of personal sacrifice and forgiveness, with spiritual overtones. The cast of eight (including six Equity actors) is also larger than the typical B Street show, giving the production an additional sense of dimension. It’s a smart, well-executed piece with a touching ending, displaying a dramatic side of Busfield as a playwright that we haven’t seen before. B Street Theatre, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday; 8 p.m., Friday; 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $9.75-$19.50. 2711 B St. (916) 443-5300. Through April 22. J.H.
The Millennium Monologues The Sacramento Theatre Company commissioned four monologues for this show—three by associated playwrights Velina Hasu Houston (Kokoro), Aviva Jane Carlin (Jodie’s Body) and Bob Devin Jones (Uncle Bends), and one by Davis writer Robert Daseler. They were asked independently to write futuristic one-acts based, respectively, on race, politics, gender and science. The result, as you’d expect, is a grab bag. But it makes for an evening that turns up several interesting surprises. The most pleasant is Daseler’s near-future script, a poolside essay in which a perky college student chats about everything from black holes to cybersex to the way rose petals move on the surface of the water. It’s marvelous writing, and actress Bari Newport brings her saucy character to vivid life. Carlin’s script (co-written with E. Eden) is a bit of far-future sarcasm: a syrupy infomercial for a terraformed community on a hitherto undiscovered moon of Jupiter. The humor’s brittle and pointed, but the concept is borrowed science fiction and the playwrights play a cheap trick at the end. Still, it’s engaging and funny until the final scene, and actress Tara Blau has a field day peddling her wares. Monologues on gender and race by Bob Devin Jones and Velina Hasu Houston are less successful. There are also two likable, smart-aleck songs written by local composer Gregg Coffin. Director Sheldon Deckelbaum conjures up some glowing visual images. Sacramento Theatre Company, 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; matinees 12:30 p.m. Thursday; 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday. $16-$32. 1419 H St. 443-6722. Through April 8. J.H.
Men in Riffs Local actor Anthony D’Juan is both author and star of this moody, semi-autobiographical one-man show. It’s a series of portraits, some bleak and some humorous, involving what it means to be “a man” in the context of African-American culture. Some of the characters are pretty creepy—like the long-absent dad, always promising to send gifts to his 9-year-old son, who shows up with a six-pack and proceeds to drink most of the beer while visiting the boy. Other scenes feature a pimp, an opportunistic lover waking up after a one-night stand, and a guy on a barstool—alcohol is a recurrent theme. The 24-year-old D’Juan (who says he’s been writing since age 7) comes up with some good lines and situations in his script, and as an actor he shifts smoothly from swaggering braggadocio to introspective regret. He also does a high-energy dance to a Michael Jackson song, but the dominant musical motif comes from Marvin Gaye’s haunting 1972 soundtrack to Trouble Man. At around 65 minutes it’s not a long show, but it feels neither skimpy nor padded. Though it isn’t a breakthrough piece, it’s well-constructed and well-performed. D’Juan is a young man to watch. Production values are modest in this low-budget studio production. Actor’s Theater, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $14-$10. 1616 Del Paso Blvd. 484-3750. Through March. J.H.
Shedding the Tiger Velina Hasu Houston’s new play explores the lives of four women living in Kyoto in present-day Japan. The playwright touches on a lot of subjects—hidden family scandals, Japanese attitudes toward race, and the still-lingering downturn that followed the collapse of Japan’s “bubble economy” 10 years ago. But mostly the play is about problematic relationships with men, and how difficult it can be to reconcile the traditional ideal of the dutiful wife with a modern lifestyle and career. Houston’s points about Japanese society are on the mark, but the situations seem tightly controlled at times and the story veers toward melodrama toward the end. The play might rise to an even higher level artistically if Houston let her characters go completely off leash midway through. Even so, it’s a story that works and contains a lot of truth. The production is enhanced by the attractive-yet-spare set, thoughtful lighting, sound design and costumes. The cast is excellent; Takayo Fischer is particularly good. And director Peggy Shannon, who excels with dramas that have all-female casts, is in her element. Sacramento Theatre Company, 8 p.m. ,Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $10-$32. 1419 H St. 443-6722. Through April 1. J.H.
Stream of Consciousness Local polymath Doniel Soto of CSUS makes a most ambitious attempt with this independently produced show. It’s focused on physical movement and the actors’ presence in the moment—frequently inspired, but occasionally off the mark. As playwright/director/choreographer/songwriter, Soto guides nine eager, highly athletic young performers dressed in hooded khaki jumpsuits and black Army boots, with only heads and hands exposed. The show is a cascade of scenes (note the title!), with episodes emerging and dissolving into abstract action. Topics extend from the animal kingdom to human childhood and old age, medieval to modern times, and goofy comedy to savagery and gut-wrenching tragedy, spiced with a cappella singing. It’s starry-sky boot camp and brain candy for the art set, triangulating somewhere between Joe Goode, Meredith Monk, Monty Python and mime. Soto’s sparkling direction/choreography are optically engaging, he has lots to say and he’s tuned into many of the stages of life. At just under two hours, the show (which plays without intermission) feels long, probably because it demands nonstop attentiveness from the audience. But there’s a brilliant mind at work here. The setting is an industrial warehouse and there’s no heat. Abandon Productions, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday. $10. 2509 R St. 737-2304. Through March. J.H.