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
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, 12401 Folsom 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.
The Substance of Fire Vista Players, under director Aram Kouyoumdjian, scores another success with this drama about a New York publisher who’s taken his respected firm to the brink of bankruptcy by focusing on scholarly but uncommercial titles about the Holocaust. In the opening act, he’s challenged for control of the firm—a tense standoff in which the old man systematically slights his children and their accomplishments. In the second half, the unrepentant father is living bitterly on the edge of poverty. He gets a visit from a social worker who, as it turns out, has also fallen from the realm of high society. Ed Claudio and Jan Ahders head a well-chosen cast in this studio production of a serious script by Jon Robin Baitz. Actors Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday (4/22 only), $12. 1616 Del Paso Blvd. (near Arden), (916) 498-0477. Through April 28. J.H.