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; 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, www.bstreettheatre.org. Through July 16.
Gypsy! Mama Rose, mother of famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc, is the quintessential stage mother, a frustrated wannabe vaudeville star who relentlessly pushed her two daughters into showbiz. Local talent Deane Calvin uses her bawdy spirit and voluminous voice to portray the pushy mama. From the moment she bursts onstage in Gypsy!, Calvin is Rose, a bodacious, brazen broad from her flaming-red hair to her booming and sassy voice. Not only is Calvin a kick, but so are the four actresses who portray the two daughters. Classic songs include “Let Me Entertain You,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together (Wherever We Go).”
Fair Oaks Theatre Festival, 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, $13-$15. Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre, Plaza Park at the corner of California Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Fair Oaks, (916) 966-3683. Through July 23. P.R.
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.
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, $8-$15. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787, www.celebrationarts.net. Through July 15. P.R.