Beneath the Moon, Beyond the Stars Buck Busfield’s new play—bearing a somewhat unwieldy title—is a welcome change of pace for the B Street Theatre, which has relied a bit too heavily on lighthearted shows 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 Theater, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 8 p.m. Friday; 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $9.75-$19.50. 2711 B St. 443-5300. Through April 22. J.H.
Chicago Conspiracy Trial Frank Condon’s spectacular production is not only the biggest show in town, but probably the best as well. The play recreates the trial of eight activists in the aftermath of the infamous 1968 Democratic Convention—with the audience as jury. The script is drawn from actual testimony and ranges from enormously funny political satire to bone-chilling scenes of a black defendant bound and gagged in court. The show is vastly entertaining as courtroom drama documenting a bizarre trial. But it’s also a passionate defense of free speech and also sheer lunatic fun as the more flamboyant radicals show off. The cast is enormous, featuring numerous strong performances by local actors. Highly, highly recommended. River Stage, 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $12-$14. Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway. 691-7364. Through April 22 (no performances Easter week). J.H.
Two by Two This 1970 musical features one of the last scores by the great Richard Rodgers (Oklahoma, et al.). The songs are pretty good, but the story (based on Noah and the Ark) gets awkward, with a late 1960’s take on the “generation gap” grafted onto the Biblical story, with lots of comic interludes. The Woodland Opera House production features a good comic actor, Micail Buse, as Noah—he doesn’t sing so much as talk his way through the songs—but so did Danny Kaye, for whom the role was originally written. The show doesn’t transcend its status as community theater, but those who love musicals will want to check it out anyway, just to hear the relatively unfamiliar Rodgers songs. And the historic Woodland Opera House is a wonderful destination. Woodland Opera House, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $10-$16. 340 Second St., Woodland. (530) 666-9617. Through April 14. J.H.
Move Over Mrs. Markham Champagne, slamming doors, characters in underwear chasing each other round a big oval bed. … It’s British sex farce at Garbeau’s. Director Jack Lynn and lead actress Claire Lipschultz are better known for their serious work, but their timing’s crisp in this comedy and the supporting cast is good. Multiple levels of deception and jealousy result in some delicious situations in the second half. The script (oft produced at comedy houses around the country) works the formula effectively, and the show fits nicely into the dinner theater ambiance. It may not be high art, but it’s fun while it lasts. Garbeau’s Dinner Theater, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (dinner seating at 6 p.m.); 12:30 p.m. Sunday (brunch seating at 11 a.m.). $15-$32. Old Nimbus Winery building, 12401Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova (near the Highway 50/Hazel Avenue exit). 985-6361. Through April 29. J.H.
Bite Me, Cleopatra Wonder what happens behind the scenes during a production of, say, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra? Here’s a comedy that addresses that premise; it’s written and directed by local actor, director and playwright Luther Hanson. Clever writing, subtle—and not so subtle—humor and a perfectly selected cast (Stephanie Gularte, Christine Nicholson, Tasmyn Dillow, Martha Omiyo Kight) makes this production a laugh riot from beginning to end. Perhaps the best offering from Synergy Stage this season, Bite Me, Cleopatra should prove to be a sheer delight for any theatergoer. Antony and Cleopatra has long been one of Shakespeare’s most famous and respected works, yet after Bite Me, Cleopatra one will be hard-pressed to watch it again and keep a straight face. Delta King Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, $14-$41. 1000 Front Street, Old Sacramento. 995-5464. Through April 28. M.B.C.