Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

Making a Killing — Michael Gene Sullivan's script has everything you want from an old-school San Francisco Mime Troupe show. There's a hero of the people aching to be unleashed in Corporal Emiliano Jones (Victor Toman), a muckraking journalist recalled to army service by the Iraq war and tamed into writing feel-good puff pieces. There's Kevin Rolston's spunky photographer Corporal Marcus Johnson as sidekick, conscience, and foil for Jones, as well as his romantic interest. There are great villains to boo and hiss in Ed Holmes' snarling Dick Cheney and Velina Brown's haughty Condoleezza Rice. Pat Moran's insidiously catchy songs keep things snappy. The nefarious plot has contractors tearing down an Iraqi clinic to build a grander PR-friendly clinic, then tearing that down to build an even bigger one, without actually treating the skyrocketing cancer rates caused by uranium-tipped US bombs. A courtroom framing sequence is pretty thin, as is the shock-and-aww ending, but it's a heck of a ride along the way. (Through September 3 in local parks; SFMT.org or 415-285-1717.)

Romeo and Juliet — The central Women's Will concept of all-female casting works pretty well in this free outdoor production, and director Erin Merritt strikingly condenses the chain of events that bring the young lovers together in a tomb into a slo-mo dumbshow. Jessica Kitchens is appropriately larger than life as boisterous Mercutio and Carolyn Power an amusingly garrulous Nurse, but a few actors come off as unassuming wallflowers, such as Karen Anne Light as the usually fiery Tybalt. Marilet Martinez' mechanical Romeo seems to be wooing Juliet simply because she's there, although Cassie Powell makes such a charmingly rash and gushy Juliet that it's easy to believe that she suddenly thinks she's in love. One wishes their parents would get over their feud not so young love can thrive but to bring their kids to their senses, and the moral becomes that kids do deeply stupid things sometimes. (Through August 12 in local parks; WomansWill.org or 510-420-0813.)

The Three Musketeers — There's a satisfying amount of swordplay in this stage version of the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas père, adapted and directed by Joanie McBrien for Shotgun Players' free outdoor summer show. The fights choreographed by Dave Maier (who also plays Athos) are fast-paced and often dizzyingly complex. Whereas many adaptations focus on the first part of the book, the McBrien version attempts to hit the highlights from beginning to end, with many short, utilitarian scenes to move the story along. Certain flourishes of the dialogue and scene structure sometimes give the proceedings a faux-Shakespearean air, but many of the best lines ate straight from the book. The cast plays it considerably larger than life, never a bad idea when performing outdoors. Ryan Montgomery is a humorously cocky, almost loutish D'Artagnan, as opposed to the more courtly musketeers, and Fontana Butterfield aptly embodies the poise and deadly venom of Milady de Winter. (Through September 9 in John Hinkel Park; ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500.)

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