Center Repertory Company opened a hilarious production of Steve Martin's "The Underpants" last week.

You would think that anything by the renowned comedic actor would be a slam-dunk, but if you saw the production by another local theater several years ago, you know that a director/company's interpretation can easily turn a comedy into a tragedy.

Not so with Center Rep's production, which runs through Nov. 17, at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts.

Astutely directed by Michael Butler, the production takes full advantage of Martin's clever wit and flair for physical comedy as the playwright pokes fun at our fascination with fame and our obsession with sex.

Set in the early 1900s, the story revolves around conservative government worker Theo and his young wife Louise, who inadvertently becomes the object of several men's desires when her bloomers fall down in public.

You know you're in for a treat when you first see Nina Ball's stylized set with walls suggesting the gilded cage that the lively Louise (played beautifully by Lyndsy Kail) longs to flee. With the help of a nosy neighbor (the hilarious Gertrude Deuter), Louise plans an affair with her boarder, the suave poet Versati (a charming Ben Johnson).

But Cohen, another boarder (well played by Cassidy Brown), thwarts their every move. Theo (wonderfully portrayed by Keith Pinto) is oblivious to all as he worries whether his wife's wardrobe malfunction will cost him his job.


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Other characters include Klinglehoff (the impeccable Evan Boomer) and the King (a delightful John R. Lewis), both of whom also desire rooms in the now infamous house.

Costume designer Victoria Livingston-Hall and wig designer Judy Disbrow add greatly to the comedic flair of Center Rep's production with outrageous designs, especially Theo's hair and corduroy shorts, and the King's helmet crowned with a rooster. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

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    There is still one weekend to catch Butterfield 8's entertaining production of Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer." The well-cast and nicely paced comedy continues through Nov. 4, at Cue Productions Live in Concord.

    Reminiscent of Shakespeare's comedies, Goldsmith's 17th century work has its share of mistaken identities and star-crossed lovers.

    Wealthy countryman Mr. Hardcastle arranges for his daughter Kate to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. But his stepson, Tony Lumpkin, who encounters Marlow and his friend Hastings on their way to Hardcastle's abode, convinces them that they have far to go and should stay the night at a nearby inn. In actuality, the so-called inn is really Hardcastle's home.

    Many hilarious misunderstandings ensue compounded by Kate pretending to be a maid rather than Hardcastle's daughter to draw out the shy Marlow. Meanwhile, Hastings plots to run away with Hardcastle's niece, his efforts helped and then hindered by the incompetent and appropriately named Lumpkin.

    Directed by John Butterfield, the cast easily handles the intricate language and certainly has a feel for comedic timing, especially Peter McArthur (Marlow) and Jeremy Gallardo (Hastings). It was also a pleasure to watch Beth Chastain (Mrs. Hardcastle), Alan Cameron (Mr. Hardcastle) and Kerry Gudjohnsen (Kate).

    Butterfield utilizes the talents of Ali Arman, Edwin Peabody and Annie Potter to add a taste of "Three Stooges" comedy to their dual roles of bungling servants and inebriated tavern patrons.

    Once again, Liz Martin outdid herself with elaborate period costumes with Linda Wenzelberger supplying the extravagant wigs and hairstyles. For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go to www.b8company.com.

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    Inaugurating this season's "Off Center" series, Center Rep opens Dorothy Fortenberry's imaginative "Status Update." In this thoroughly modern comedy, Annabel has one boyfriend, two dinner guests, and 534 friends on Facebook.

    When her birthday party goes awry, she decides to abandon the "real world" and jump head first, like a 21st-century Alice, down the rabbit hole with her pal Keyboard Cat. Once inside the wonderland of the Internet, Annabel finds ex-boyfriends, political action and even her mom.

    The comedy with music runs Nov. 1- 18, at the Lesher Center, and features Darren Bridgett, Lynda DiVito, Ben Euphrat, Rosie Hallett and Joel Roster. Call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

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    The Saint Mary's College Performing Arts Department presents the gripping musical "Spring Awakening" from Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-18, at LeFevre Theatre in Moraga.

    The powerful piece pits generation against generation as young students test the boundaries of morality, family and education in the late 1800s. The intricacies of emerging sexuality, societal constraints and familial relationships makes Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater's poignant retelling of Frank Widekind's original 1892 drama even more relevant today.

    Professor Reid Davis directs with Robert Moreno as musical director and Jia Wu as choreographer. Shows are at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 18. For tickets, call 925-631-4670 or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.

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    The Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center presents a wild and wacky taste of the Great White Way in its one-night only performance of "Forbidden Broadway: 30th Anniversary Show."

    The spoof on both theatrical successes and failures includes twists on such classics as "Annie," "Phantom of the Opera," "Wicked," and more. It performs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore.

    For tickets, call 925-373-6800 or go to www.bankheadtheater.org.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.