Serfs Up 

Subterranean no more

6/11, 6/12

"In limited engagement before European tour," trumpets the press release for the musicotheatrical revue the Serfs, announcing their upcoming Berkeley Art Center dates (Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m., 510-276-3871). When pushed for details of this tour, spokeSerf Geoffrey Pond confirms, "Sure, someday!" That's a cheerful, if admittedly vague, response from this Bay Area group known for its "premillennial angst and deracinated boomer dreams," as we described them in these pages a few years ago. Have things improved now that we're over the millennial hump and have a more vivid view of the century to come? Not if you ask the Serfs -- but in performance they'll make you enjoy every moment of this darkly dawning realization. Until recently they were the Channel Serfs, but Pond says they decided to trim it down, "befitting our downtrodden hipster-guy image." Pond is one-seventh of the group's current incarnation -- a percussionist, singer, actor, and managing director of the seventeen-year-old troupe Subterranean Shakespeare, which performed at Northside's La Val's Pizza for fifteen years until, he says, "rent got too high." SubShakes and the Serfs are both currently seeking a permanent space or a European tour, whichever comes first. Meanwhile, Pond holds out hope that the Berkeley city arts commission will foster "a nice theater for nomadic fringe companies."

The current lineup consists of Pond and Andy Dinsmoor, guitarist in the Oaktown Blues Machine and the Ballads; Bob Ernst, founding member of the legendary Blake Street Hawkeyes and solo artist; Kevin Moore, singer and musician who recently played guitar in Omnicircus' Mystery Box House; Michael Rossman, writer and songwriter and one of the original steering committee members in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement; G.P. Skratz, poet and songwriter and ghostwriter for Morris "Moe" Fineberg's biography of his brother Larry: The Stooge in the Middle; and the band's lone woman, C.J. Karel, classically trained pianist and actor for more than 35 years. Altogether they represent 250 years of experience in the arts -- if this makes them sound like ancient history, so be it. It's a history that comes alive onstage, a treasury of Bay Area genre-bending theatrical and musical talent.

The Serfs' current playlist looks wildly eclectic and improvisational -- a blend of original roots, country, and folk-oriented tunes and musical monologues. Songs range from Ernst's cruel God-monologue "I Am the One" to Skratz' prophetic rant "Doorway Man" to the macabre Skratz/Dinsmoor composition "Freezer Teaser" (Taking me away to the morgue/They put me inside a refrigerator unit). If apocalypse makes you giddy, get Serf'd! -- Frako Loden


Trade o' Vics

Switchin' at Masquers

Some movies just won't stay on the big screen. Like Blake Edwards' 1982 gender-bender, Victor/Victoria, which Edwards himself developed for the stage. Now Masquers Playhouse brings "Le Jazz Hot" to Point Richmond, with Carrie Sugarman in the director's seat, and Henry Mancini's songs intact. Victor/Victoria plays Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. through July 24, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on selected Sundays. Tickets cost $15, and can be purchased in advance from 510-232-4031 or 105 Park Pl., Point Richmond. -- Stefanie Kalem


Hooker Trouble in Alameda

In the 1987 movie Nuts, Barbra Streisand played a belligerent high-priced call girl who murders a trick in self-defense, then gets her court-appointed attorney (Richard Dreyfuss) to cop an insanity plea for her. So why didn't she just claim self-defense? This and other objections might occur to you while watching Altarena Playhouse's production of Nuts, starring Kimberly Schooling in the Streisand role. But keep them to yourself, you nut. Nuts opens Friday (8 p.m.), then runs through July 10 at Altarena, 1409 High St., Alameda. Tickets: $12 general, $9 students and seniors. or 510-523-1553. -- Kelly Vance


Getcher Dance Back On

Shaken off your National Dance Week hangover yet? Company C Contemporary Ballet is hoping you're well rested, and at least your eyes are ready for some more fast moves. The troupe presents its inaugural Oakland Dance Festival beginning this weekend and continuing for the next two at the Alice Arts Center (1428 Alice St.), with Company C performing alongside Savage Jazz, Capacitor, and Facing East. Tickets $22, 8 p.m. -- Stefanie Kalem


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