Navel Ball 

Belly-dance legacy continues

SAT 8/2

For some women, following in their mother's footsteps is a trap to be avoided; the minute they glance across the dance floor and see themselves in the mirror doing the "funky choo-choo," a little part of them dies. Not so for Suhaila Salimpour , whose mother was a major figure in the rise of belly dancing and Middle Eastern nightclubs in '50s and '60s America. Jamila Salimpour owned San Francisco's Baghdad Cabaret, helped create the tribal belly-dance movement with her troupe Bal Anat, and published her complicated finger-cymbal patterns in a manual. Today, the daughter continues her mother's enterprise. Having debuted as a dancer at age two, Suhaila now works to systemize belly dancing through education and certification, and performs with her own six-person band, led by composer and violinist Fathi Al Jarrah. Tonight's show at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek) features Rashid, a male belly dancer. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $29. For more info: 925-943-7469 or -- Stefanie Kalem


Echt Brecht

Maybe the leftist German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), famous for his Threepenny Opera and his didactic, direct-address theater style, still has relevance for modern-day audiences disgusted with clandestine wars and high-level government subterfuge. The Shotgun Players obviously think so. "Commerce is the true engine of war," reads the press release for the company's production of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. "All other reasons are mere window dressing to the most fundamental question: Is there money to be made?" Trish Mulholland stars as the eponymous traveling merchant who follows European armies with her wagonload of goods, risking death to turn a deutschmark -- supported by Andy Alabran, Judy Phillips, Dave Meier, and John Thomas, under the direction of Shotgun's big cannon, Patrick Dooley. The amazingly relevant show opens at 4 p.m. Saturday, outdoors in Berkeley's John Hinkel Park, and runs through September 14. or 510-704-8210. -- Kelly Vance


Friendly Farce

Check out the cowboy farce that allowed Matthew Perry to get bitten by the acting bug (frightening, but true) when Oakland Summer Theatre presents James L. Rosenberg's The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch at Chabot School Auditorium (6686 Chabot Rd., Oakland). Performances this and next Friday at 8 p.m.; this and next Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.; and this Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door, with discounts for seniors, students, children, groups, and the Sunday performance. For more information: 510-597-5026. -- Stefanie Kalem

TUE 8/5

Howell Howls

Playwright/poet Gene Howell (Please Don't Bury Me Before I Die, Augusta Lee), who usually hosts the Fireback Poetry on the Waterfront reading series at Barnes & Noble Jack London Square, crosses town to read Tuesday at Poetry Diversified. Alison Chokwadi Fletcher's first-and-third-Tuesday series at the World Ground Cafe (3726 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 510-482-2933). Open mic signup is at 7:15 pm. -- Kelly Vance


Our Thane's Insane

The Tragedy of Macbush plays Oakland

Aman driven beyond reason by power, the woman who feeds his frenzy, a rising body count: The story of Macbeth strikes a resounding chord right now in our angry, war-soaked consciousness. This season everyone wants a piece of the mad thane and the questions he raises, from CentralWorks and their Wyrd Sisters to the upcoming Impact remix and MacHomer (the Simpsons do Macbeth) at CalShakes. War, destiny, bad advice from untrustworthy sources -- it does have a certain sickeningly familiar ring. Weapons of mass destruction, anyone? Writer, director, and political-theater scholar Michael Hettinger sees a real family resemblance between Macbeth and a certain American president. In The Tragedy of Macbush , he re-envisions Shakespeare's doomed lord as a dangerous buffoon driven into an ever-deepening spiral of terror by a pack of power-mad advisers, including Jaxy Boyd as Lady Macbush. Here the witches are prostitutes, Macbush's kingdom is the most polluted in the land, and one-time ally Ranquo (a Middle Eastern king) is assassinated when he is no longer useful. Hettinger, who's studied everyone from Sophocles and Euripides to Ionesco and Brecht, promises a modern variation that maintains Shakespeare's structure and rhythms. The Tragedy of Macbush is sure to find a willing audience in anyone who watched aghast as President Bush overran Iraq and who is still trying to figure out how it could have happened.

At the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice Street in Oakland, from August 1 to 3. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are $20 at the door, or from 510-465-0076 or -- Lisa Drostova


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