Morality? In Wartime? 

Bert Brecht's back, and Shotgun's got him

7/17-8/29

Taking as their cue the handover of power in Iraq, the Shotgun Players follow up last year's production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage with The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Brecht's satirical riff on the anonymous Chinese play The Chalk Circle (circa 1300 AD), similar to the tale of King Solomon and the contested infant (popularized in the Tom Selleck vehicle Two Mothers and a Baby -- okay, not really). Writing near the end of World War II and setting the action amid feudal unrest in the Caucasus region, Brecht turned the traditional tale into a parable about who should have the right to property -- those with traditional rights of ownership, or those who would use it best. The questions he raised about the possibility of moral choices for the downtrodden amid war, corruption, and chaos have unfortunately lost none of their relevance. The show runs in John Hinkel Park in Berkeley, Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. through August 29. Free admission, donations welcome. Visit ShotgunPlayers.org or call 510-841-6500. -- Sam Hurwitt

7/16-8/15

Off Off Off

Boys will be boys

First it was an Off-Broadway play. Then it was a 1996 movie starring Nathan Lane. Now Tom Griffin's stage sitcom-with-heart-tugs The Boys Next Door has finally arrived in Fremont. It's the story of an extremely dedicated social worker named Jack Palmer, who undertakes to help four developmentally challenged men -- each one quirkier than the last -- achieve some semblance of normality in their lives. Hilarity and, yes, sniffles ensue. The play opens Friday (8 p.m.) then continues through August 15, at Broadway West Theatre Company, 4000-B Bay St., Fremont. An "English Tea Matinee" happens August 8. Info: Broadway-West.com or 510-683-9218. -- Kelly Vance

7/16-9/7

Pay the Piper

Once upon a time, a fellow in a multicolored patchwork suit decided to go into the pest exterminating business. So he got a flute, practiced a bit, and discovered the right frequency to cause rats and mice to follow his music, thus ridding the town of vermin. But a payment dispute arose. ... That's the setup for The Pied Piper of Hamelin , the latest puppet show at Open Storybook Puppet Theatre in Oakland's Children's Fairyland. The world-famous puppet artistry is included in the admission price ($6 per person), as are rides and entertainment. Fairyland, one of America's finest (and least commercialized) theme parks for young tots, is open every day this summer. For more info: Fairyland.org -- Kelly Vance

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