under the tree
by Richard Dodds
The obligatory news story about Black Friday violence outside a big-box store in some sooty town is one way to know that the most wonderful time of the year has arrived. A somewhat more felicitous indicator is to scan the theater listings and gape at the number of holiday offerings piled up like the gift-wrapped packages under Daddy Warbucks' Christmas tree. Broadway may have a new deal for Christmas with the current revival of Annie, but the Bay Area tilts in a different direction when it comes to spiking the theatrical eggnog.
Yes, we have our A Christmas Carol s (it's year 36 for the ACT production), but gaining status as another holiday tradition is The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes, which is back for its seventh seasonal presentation. Local drag luminaries Heklina, Cookie Dough, Matthew Martin, and Pollo del Mar again play the Florida housemates in two scripts with gay angles from the fondly remembered sitcom. Performances are at the Victoria Theatre, Dec. 6-30, and a guest star appears at each performance during the first week of the run. Tickets are available at www.goldengirlssf.eventbrite.com.
It's the 20th anniversary for the Yuletide alternative known as Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. Created by Lisa Geduldig and inspired by a Jewish tradition of seeking repast in Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day, the Kung Pao formula includes both dinner and cocktail shows at the New Asia Restaurant, capped by standup comedy performances. The lineup for the Dec. 22-25 run includes nationally known lesbian comic Judy Gold, New York-based standup veteran Adrianne Tolsch, San Francisco's Mike Capozolla, and Geduldig as emcee. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Brown Twins' assistance fund. Tickets are at (925) 855-1986 or www.koshercomedy.com.
Still another local tradition of the season, this one in its 11th year, is Help Is On the Way for the Holidays, which benefits the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation. It often features cast members from touring Broadway productions that happen to be in town, and this is a year that includes a couple of choice offerings: The Book of Mormon and The Lion King. The Dec. 10 event at Marines Memorial Theatre also features such local and national notables as Bruce Vilanch, Connie Champagne, Mary Wilson, Spencer Day, and Paula West. Premium tickets include a post-show reception. More info at www.helpisontheway.org.
Before Connie Champagne heads over to Marines Memorial, she'll be continuing a Rrazz Room tradition in her Judy Garland guise with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas on Dec. 2 and 9. Other Rrazz Room holiday bookings with theatrical trim include Sharon McNight's Twisted Xmas: A Druid's View of the Holidays (Dec. 3 and 4), musical theater veterans Franc D'Ambrosio and Jeri Sager's Broadway's Best for the Holidays (Dec. 11-15), campy cabaret stars and RSVP cruise headliners Amy & Freddy (Dec. 14), and exiled Russian countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy (aka J. Conrad Frank) with her vodka-infused holiday spectacular (Dec. 17). Tickets at www.therrazzroom.com.
(Photo: Liz Payne)
A lesbian Jew and a straight lapsed Christian, Terry Baum and Carolyn Myers, are longtime partners in comic crime. Billing themselves as the Crackpot Crones, the duo will offer sketches and improv with a slanted take on holiday customs. Local theater legend Joan Makin is directing Crone for the Holidays, running Dec. 15-30 at StageWerx. Tickets are available through www.brownpapertickets.com or (800) 838-3006.
The Marsh, at both its Mission and Berkeley venues, is hauling out the holly. At the Valencia Street headquarters, Brian Copeland will perform his solo show The Jewelry Box – A Genuine Christmas Story. Running Dec. 14-29, it's the tale of a youngster heading into the "mean streets" of Oakland to buy his mom a Christmas present. Over in Berkeley, the Marsh will offer the politically agitating clown Wavy Gravy in a show that sideswipes the holidays. Wavy Gravy and His Guided Mistletoes will run Dec. 14-29, and Mr. Gravy is also on the bill at the Marsh's holiday bash Dec. 15 at the Berkeley venue, to be joined by Sara Felder, Marilyn Pittman, Josh Kornbluth, Charlie Varon, and other Marsh habitues. More info at www.themarsh.org.
Berkeley Rep has lined up a quartet of Emmy and Tony winners for a live holiday version of NPR's Selected Shorts series of celebrities reading favorite short stories. On Dec. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m., Kate Burton, Michael Imperioli, and Linda Lavin will present John Cheever's Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor, Ron Carlson's The H Street Sledding Record, Thomas Beller's Live Wires, and Edna O'Brien's Violets. At 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9, Rene Auberjonois will join Burton and Imperioli for Frank O'Connor's Christmas Morning, David Schickler's Jamaica, and encores of the Beller and Carlson stories. Go to www.berkeleyrep.org.
The most traditional theatrical offering in this roundup can't quite escape the dark side. John Van Druten's 1950 Broadway comedy Bell, Book, and Candle takes its name from an exorcism ritual, but don't expect projectile vomiting from a Linda Blair character. San Francisco Playhouse does a 180 from its previous show, the rock musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, for this comic tale of a witch who risks her magical status by falling in love with a mortal. It's Christmastime when the curtain rises, providing the holiday connection, with Lauren English as the witch whose ethics fall somewhere between Margaret Hamilton and Elizabeth Montgomery. It runs Dec. 4-Jan. 19, with tickets available at www.sfplayhouse.org.