Like a Dog 

Workshop, Shotgun-style


New York playwright Liz Duffy Adams may not yet be the complete post-apocalyptic narrative expert -- she admits to not having seen the, ah, seminal film Hell Comes to Frogtown with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, nor having read George R. Stewart's far more serious classic 1949 novel Earth Abides. But that didn't stop a barren landscape viewed through a train window from inspiring her to write Dog Act , a new "post-apocalyptic vaudeville with music," where the performer Rozetta "Zetta" Stone and her companion Dog ("a young man undergoing a voluntary species demotion") steer their cart through a dangerous post-apocalyptic America. Dog Act's first public appearance was as part of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival two years ago, where it was directed by Kent Nicholson, a Shotgun Players regular and TheatreWorks' director of new works. Adams, whose Train Play will be familiar to Crowded Fire audiences, was so pleased with Nicholson's work that she angled to keep the play in his hands ("Tell the readers," she suggests, "that the playwright is extremely happy" with how the production is shaping up.)

The Shotgun Players production opening this week is the first coproduction of the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, which seeks to move promising plays past the workshop phase -- where they too often get stuck -- and into full production. This world premiere of Dog Act is exciting for other reasons. It's the Shotgun Players' first show on the Ashby Stage, their new permanent home. It marks the long-overdue return of the incomparable Beth Donohue Templeton to the boards. Richard Bolster, who was such a surprising Hal in Impact's Henry IV: The Remix a couple of years back, makes his first Shotgun appearance as Dog. The cast is rounded out by Eric Burns, Diane Manning, extreme-fight choreographer Dave Maier, and Rami Margron. And the music will all be played by the performers on found-object instruments made of things like old crutches.

Get your strum-strings and jing-jang-whackers ready for a darkly comic fable that wonders "what happens when life as we know it is destroyed" and we have to come up with something else. Dog Act is presented by the Shotgun Players at the Thick House in San Francisco through September 19, and from September 23 through October 10 at the Ashby Stage. Info: 510-841-6500 or -- Lisa Drostova



The Big Greasy

Ever since it was first produced as a stage play at Chicago's Kingston Mines Theater in 1971, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's '50s-era spoof Grease has been a hit, and the 1978 John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John movie cemented it forever into community-theater repertories. As we look in on the Contra Costa Musical Theatre production of Grease opening this Friday (8 p.m.) at Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, it's somehow comforting to know that some things never change. Pull on your bobby sox or your engineer boots and get back to Rydell High. Directed by Jeff Collister, with musical direction by Heidi Dahms and choreography by Michael Sloan. Tickets: 925-943-7469. -- Kelly Vance

Wed 9/1

Plough Sweet Plough

The ladies of Chicken Grease spent a woeful week in St. Louis last month, filling up on poetry but bemoaning "empty and hostile venues" at the National Poetry Slam. But this Wednesday, Nazelah Jamison and Karen Ladson return to the spot that loves them best -- the Starry Plough -- for the Berkeley Poetry Slam's monthly ladies' night. Women who sign up to read get in free, DJ Agana spins hip-hop and salsa, and the featured reader is the intriguingly titled RodZilla Blackademic from Team Sacramento 2004 and performance collective SuperCaliFlowLinguistics. Sign-up starts at 7:30 p.m., the show starts at 8:30, and cover is $7 ($5 with student ID). -- Stefanie Kalem

Sun 9/5

Fantastic Solo

Few authors inspire such devotion that fans will eagerly gobble up books credited to them posthumously. V.C. Andrews is one, and Marion Zimmer Bradley is another, though Andrews' readership of the eternally fourteen wouldn't cotton to the way the new Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ancestors of Avalon has the new author's name right there on the cover. But Diana L. Paxson was Bradley's longtime writing partner, and an accomplished fantasy scribe in her own right. Now she flies us to Avalon solo, revealing the saga's beginnings on Atlantis and the ancestors' escape to Britain. She'll read at Premalaya (formerly Alaya), 1713 University Ave., Berkeley, at 3 p.m. Sunday. Info: 510-548-4701. -- Stefanie Kalem


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