The regular seasons at big regional theaters ACT and Berkeley Rep are winding down until September, but there is still plenty of theater happening around the Bay — both indoors and out.
In addition to the always delightful California Shakespeare Theater (CalShakes) in Orinda, Berkeley Rep has a couple of shows going on through July, SF Playhouse is opening a production of Cabaret tonight, and PianoFight has a short play competition series that's ongoing all summer.
Below, SFist's picks for some must-see shows during these (hopefully sunny?) summer months.
San Francisco Mime Troupe's Treasure Island: A New Musical
It's the 60th Anniversary summer for the San Francisco Mime Troupe — which, in case you didn't know, is a notorious political theater group that does not do any actual mime stuff. This year, they're mashing up the pirate tale of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with its local namesake in the Bay, and doing a provocative musical about the decommissioned Navy base that's becoming a housing development site — which also wasn't necessarily cleaned up of toxic debris as well as it could have been. The Troupe's summer season kicks off, as it always does, on July 4th in Dolores Park (free show at 2 p.m.), and they'll be performing all over the Bay and even down in Santa Cruz through September 8.
The Good Person of Szechuan at CalShakes (July 3 to July 21)
This 1941 Berthold Brecht play gets an updated adaptation at the hands of playwright Tony Kushner and translator Wendy Arons, and it's one of the two traditional non-Shakespeare pieces being done at CalShakes this season. As the theater says, it's "a fable for our times exploring the lengths to which one must go to keep clean in a dirty world," and it's being directed by the company's artistic director Eric Ting. And as always, you should bring a picnic here, which can be enjoyed before the show — and you can bring your wine and stuff inside the amphitheater. More info.
Second City's Left Leaning and Always Right at Berkeley Rep (through July 21)
This newest satirical revue from the famed Chicago comedy group is the second to grace the stages of Berkeley Rep, and it promises to "release you from your liberal bubble" with a "takedown of living in a one-viewpoint-fits-all world." The show just got extended by popular demand, so get tickets now.
Kiss My Aztec! at Berkeley Rep (through July 21)
This new musical comedy, a collaboration between outgoing Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone and actor/playwright John Leguizamo builds off of the history Leguizamo narrated in his one-man show Latin History for Morons — which premiered at Berkeley Rep, moved to Broadway last year, and is currently touring. "It may be the 16th century in Spanish-occupied Mesoamerica, but these Aztecs is woke," reads the copy for this new show, in its world premiere. The music fuses salsa, Latin boogaloo, hip-hop, gospel, funk, and merengue, and the show combines "Elizabethan dialect and modern slang to celebrate, elevate, and commemorate Latinx culture." More info.
PianoFight's ShortLived VIII (through September 7)
Billed as a kind of American Idol for playwrights, this vaudevillian-esque variety show series pits short plays (both comedies and dramas) by local artists against musicals, sketches, movement-based pieces and the like, with each Friday and Saturday evening through mid-August representing "regular season rounds." The audience votes on winners, and those eight winners from these rounds will compete in the ShortLived Finals on September 6-7. More info.
Stephen Sondheim's Passion at Custom Made Theatre Co. (through July 20)
One of the more musically difficult shows from the latter part of Sondheim's career (it was the last of his shows to appear on Broadway, opening in 1994), Passion tells the story of Fosca, a plain, sickly woman who nonetheless harbors a deep love for a handsome, married army captain in 1863 Italy. This production stars Theatre Bay Area Award-winning Heather Orth. More info.
Cabaret at SF Playhouse (through September 14)
The always scrappy and impressive, Union Square-adjacent SF Playhouse is closing out its season with Cabaret, directed by company co-founder Susi Damilano. This classic story of pre-WWII Berlin, as told through the Kit Kat Club, will get a fresh look in this small-scale production. And SF Playhouse writes, "Even after fifty years, this classic Tony Award-winning musical remains painfully prophetic, reminding us through Sally and the Emcee’s lost souls what horrors humans are capable of, lest we ever forget." More info.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's As You Like It (through September 22)
An annual tradition since 1983, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival produces a roving production each year that gets performed for free in parks across the Bay Area. This year's is Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It, directed by Rebecca Ennals. See the full schedule here, and note that the show comes to San Francisco starting Labor Day weekend, and going through the first three weeks of September. (The first two weekends are at the Main Parade Ground in the Presidio, and the second two weekends are at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park.) More info.
Shotgun Players' Kill Move Paradise (through August 4)
James Ijames's new play takes inspiration from the Greek idea of Elysium, and it's billed as "an expressionistic buzz saw through the contemporary myth that 'all lives matter.'" Seeing its off-Broadway production, the New York Times' Bill Brantley said of this play that it "radiates an urgent and hypnotic theatrical energy." As always at Shotgun's Ashby Stage, the show's previews, which run through July 11, are pay-what-you-can. More info.
House of Joy at CalShakes (August 14 to September 1)
Playwright Madhuri Shekar's House of Joy was a hit at the 2018 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and this production directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian brings it to the outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. "Once upon a time and place, in something like 17th century Delhi, an imperial bodyguard risks her life to fight for what’s right, turning against everything she’s been raised to believe." The play is set in a harem, and takes place "at the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire." More info.
Shotgun Players' The Flick (August 22 to September 22)
Playwright Annie Baker won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for this 2014 play about three suburban movie theater employees. "Race, class, and the universal quest for intimacy are intricately interwoven in this fascinating slice of Americana," Shotgun Players write. More info.
Macbeth at CalShakes (September 18 to October 13)
Arguably Shakespeare's darkest tragedy — and the one so associated with spookiness and curses that actors are supposed to never say its name, and only call it "the Scottish play" — Macbeth has been produced with great effect in recent years at both Berkeley Rep and CalShakes. This production will be directed by Victor Malana Maog. More info.