Theater & Performing Arts

East 14th Street: True Tales of a Reluctant Player

When: Fridays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. and Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 18 2009

Don Reed could have easily turned his autobiography into a melodrama and gotten away with it. After all, the elements are there: His hustler father and fragile, penniless mother; the rich, belittling stepfather who cancels Christmas and makes everyone convert to a religion "that rhymes with 'Tehova'sSitnesses'"; the brother who's a lady's man, and the other brother who "wants to be a lady." Combine that with the gritty environment of East Oakland in the 1970s, and you have a story that's already wonderful on its face. But Reed made it even better in his new one-man show, East 14th Street: True Tales of a Reluctant Player,by turning his childhood tragedies into sidesplitting comedy. Using a sparse stage set and an era-appropriate funk soundtrack, he flits around the stage, doing spot-on imitations of his family and all the strange characters who populated that world. He takes people who could easily be objects of derision (pimps, prostitutes, religious zealots, and all form of low-class criminals), and makes them endearing. To watch that alchemy onstage is nothing short of amazing. Through July 18 at the Marsh (1062 Valencia St., San Francisco). $20-$50.

Rachel Swan

Price: $20-$35


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