Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

HMS Pinafore — Lamplighters Music Theatre opens its 55th season with yet another trip on the good ship it's revisited regularly since the company began in 1952, embodied in a handsome multilevel set by Peter Crompton. A top-notch orchestra conducted by George Thomson and strong singing all around (particularly Jonathan Spencer as Captain Corcoran and Jennifer Ashworth as his daughter Josephine) make the songs as delightful as they should be. Sir Arthur Sullivan is well served, but W.S. Gilbert doesn't quite get his due. F. Lawrence Ewing is very funny as foppish Sir Joseph Porter, but much of the other humor is lost in artistic director Barbara Heroux' humdrum staging. Katy Daniel is colorless as Little Buttercup, and there's no chemistry between Josephine and tenor Jonathan Smucker as common sailor Ralph Rackstraw. The Lamplighters do right by the music, but it would be nice if they had more hands on deck for the theatrical aspect. (Through August 19 at Yerba Buena Center; Lamplighters.org or 415-978-2787.)

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. (Through September 3 in local parks; SFMT.org or 415-285-1717.)

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. (Through September 9 in John Hinkel Park; ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500.)

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