The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) This demolition derby through the entire Shakespeare canon is a sort of “supergroup” affair, featuring three of the region’s best comic actors: Gary Alan Wright of Foothill Theatre Company, Matt K. Miller of Sacramento Theatre Company and Greg Alexander of B Street Theatre. Together, they take down Hamlet (forward and backward), turn the gory tragedy Titus Andronicus into a ghoulish TV cooking show, summarize Othello as a rhyming rap number and knock off all the comedies in a single frantic scene. There’s a lot of dubious humor and earthy innuendo, numerous bad wigs and kooky swordfights, and several deliberately awful death scenes. Each episode is scripted, but some jokes are improvised, and part of the enjoyment comes from watching these three capable funnymen work off each other’s onstage energy.
Foothill Theatre Company; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $24-$26. Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587 or (888) 730-8587, www.foothilltheatre.org. Through August 13. J.H.
Fastened to a Dying Animal Playwright/performer Rick Foster returns with his marvelous one-man piece portraying the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The setting is a hotel room in France, there’s only one character, and there’s very little physical action, but the intellectual distance traveled is vast. The show incorporates a great deal of poetry, across the span of Yeats’ distinguished career: “Easter, 1916,” “Lapis Lazuli” and many others. Foster moves into Yeats’ persona and brings the audience into the verse. He also discusses the poet’s transformation from dewey-eyed, virginal young romantic into his later, more cantankerous pose as the irreverent, randy “wild, wicked old man.” You can enjoy it purely as a performance piece, but you’ll experience additional layers of subtlety and meaning if you read a good encyclopedia entry about the poet (and a few of Yeats’ most famous poems) in advance. It’s easily this summer’s most poetic show.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$19. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-5822, www.calstage.org. Through July 23. J.H.
The God of Hell Sam Shepard is as subtle as an anvil on your head in this hard-biting shock farce set in a remote Wisconsin dairy. This peaceful farm is invaded by a mysterious old chum running from a secretive government job and a smooth-talking stranger literally selling patriotism. What starts off as a sweet comedy swiftly swirls into a wickedly witty farce. Though it’s a bit heavy-handed, there’s a perverse joy in unveiling the danger of a “Big Brother knows best, so shut up and salute” mentality. Fair warning: This is adult fare, from the colorful language to explicit torturing.
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, with a 2 p.m. show on July 5; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org. Through July 16.
The Last Five Years The B Street Theatre’s summer offering is a “micro-musical”—a chamber piece in a 100-seat venue involving two professional actors and a cute four-piece band (piano, violin, cello and bass) and no mics. It’s a different kind of experience than a big Music Circus show. You’re closer to the performers, but you don’t get the elaborate choreography with a dozen dancers in eye-popping costumes. But The Last Five Years is still a musical, which is to say that it’s dominated by a love story, told with an interesting conceit. She starts with the breakup and works back to the beginning, while he tells the tale in linear fashion from start to finish. They get married in the middle. Performers Jessica Rush and Eric Anderson display personality and charm, and writer Jason Robert Brown delivers clever lyrics and catchy melodies (which won Drama Desk awards following the show’s New York run).
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday, with 1 p.m. Wednesday matinees through August 30; $23-$28. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through September 10. J.H.
Romeo and Juliet This maiden effort from the Sierra Foothills Shakespeare Festival is a pleasing, if somewhat uneven, affair. It’s a fairly traditional staging of a major tragedy, with a cast featuring a few professionals and several seasoned community actors, rounded out by college students. Assets include Jason Bortz, who lights up his scenes as Mercutio—swaggering with his sword and relishing the wordplay in the Queen Mab speech. Bortz also directs, with an eye toward lively fight scenes that trigger chaos in the streets. The show loses momentum after intermission, but this festival is doing several things right (the costumes are lovely, for instance). Enjoy this one and get ready for a fall production of Hamlet.
Sierra Foothills Shakespeare Festival, 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, $18-$25. Folsom High School’s outdoor amphitheater, 1655 Iron Point Road in Folsom, (916) 847-2099. Through July 2. J.H.
Seven Guitars Playwright August Wilson lets us eavesdrop on the backyard bantering of a 1948 Pittsburgh boarding house. The talk is seemingly about the mundane—roosters, cards, liquor, music and women—but if you listen hard, you’ll hear passion, lost promises and pain. It’s right after World War II, when blacks, including war veteran and aspiring musician Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, were moving to cities to make a better life. The talented performers make Wilson’s masterful dialogue and characters shine. When these friends shoot the shit, with Wilson’s help, they weave seeming non-sequiturs into a tapestry of hard lives, bitterness, redemption and hope.
Celebration Arts, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, $8-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787, www.celebrationarts.net. Through July 15. P.R.
The Sugar Bean Sisters The tale of the eccentric Nettles siblings is a broad comedy in every sense of the word. The lives of these eccentric “bachelor girls” living on the old family homestead are interrupted by a wayward showgirl named Videllia, a strange preacher, a reptile lady, outer-space visitors and other sundry stuff. This surreal story is a goofy romp through the Florida swamp with a winning cast, but the convoluted story ends up with more heart than substance.
The Studio Theatre, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, $20-$24. 1028 R Street, (916) 446-2668, www.thestudiotheatre.net. Through July 2. P.R.