Curious George shouldn't be the only primate your kids know. There is another noteworthy monkey in town this weekend, and this one is so cool he doesn't have a name. He does, however, have magical powers. He's able to aid heroes, rescue maidens, defeat villains, and make wishes come true -- all in about the time it typically takes George to get out of one of his sticky situations. And forget about that man with the yellow hat. Monkey has a celestial being for a pal. Join in the adventures of this beguiling little primate in Monkey Magic, Cal State Hayward's first theater performance of the spring. In the 1980s, popular children's playwright Aurand Harris brought his play Rags to Riches to the People's Republic of China, simultaneously exposing Chinese audiences to Western culture and causing a ruckus in the communist government. (Apparently, officials considered the story line, a melodramatic spin on the Horatio Alger fable, somewhat risqué.) Although the play was subjected to several changes before its debut, Harris must have found some artistic fodder in his experience in the Land of the Dragon -- it became the inspiration for Monkey Magic, a colorful collection of Chinese folk tales dramatized by an unusual combo of live actors, mimes, and marionettes.
The performance -- six self-contained, unique playlets, including a Cinderella-esque story -- centers on the fantastic escapades of Monkey as he makes magic, rescues the distressed, and makes dreams come true. According to director Edgardo de la Cruz, Monkey Magic, which unites the stylized acting and exquisite costumes of traditional Chinese opera with colorful stage lights and pictorial scenery, is both "charming and very funny." All indications are the production will be pretty noisy, too, something Curious George and your kids would surely appreciate. In addition to music, expect gongs, clappers, and noisemakers of all sorts.
Monkey Magic premiered in Hawaii to celebrate the centennial of the arrival of Chinese in the islands. This weekend's sixty-minute performance, however, is being staged simply because it promises fun for all. Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. Tickets: $6 adults, $3 kids, $14 per family. CSUH Studio Theatre box office: 510-885-3261 -- Joy White
U. Utah (Bruce) Phillips looks like the guy standing on the corner near the Greyhound bus station in every town in America. His act fits his image, too: He's a folk singer, storyteller, professional hobo, composer of railroad songs, and homemade political gadfly (his Web site, www.utahphillips.org, quotes him on a sign he saw in Nevada City: "You can't make foreign policy with your lower chakras: Bush, Dick, Colin"). He once cut a record with his friend Ani DiFranco, and he never gets tired of singing "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum." In other words, Phillips is the sort of guest West Coast Live cannot resist. He and author Paul Collins guest Saturday at 10 a.m. in a live broadcast from Freight & Salvage in Berkeley (1111 Addison St.). Info: www.wcl.org -- Kelly Vance
Easy Does It
Speak Easy at the Jahva House in Oakland is one of the original strongholds of the East Bay's spoken-word scene, a lively neighborhood hangout in a lively urban neighborhood. Wednesday night is the time for Speak Easy's open-mic set. It runs from 8 to 11:30 p.m. and always features guest artists in addition to the walk-ons. Admission is $5, $3 for students or teachers with ID. But spoken word is only a part of the Lake Merritt neighborhood gathering spot's lineup. Six nights a week there's live music. Let's have another cup of Jahva. 3306 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-836-5282. -- Kelly Vance
Oh, whoa, whoa, it's magic, you know. Never believe it's not so, because that would just spoil the fun. And the folks at Cool Mystery Shows want you to have fun. That's why they're gathering mind reader and Express cover star Professor Paranormal, plus magician Dennis Loomis, hypnotist Chuck Mignosa, and emcee Robert Kane, to the Concord Hilton (1970 Diamond Blvd.), to entertain and befuddle you. And once you've been amazed by the stage show, Kane will offer some close-up sleight-of-hand demonstrations. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. 925-518-4071, e-mailing email@example.com, or visiting www.mindspring.com/~deloomis -- Stefanie Kalem
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM