This is boutique theater, but not in the sense of uplifted pinkies over tea and scones, or even hushed conversation nearly void of profanity.
Of course, you might find raised pinkies, or tea and scones, at the 21st annual San Francisco Fringe Festival, but just as likely, you won't. The festival, which runs Sept. 5-16 at the Exit Theatreplex -- plus in a bar and on a bus tour -- is a smorgasbord of theatrical styles, as it should be; 42 new plays and solo shows will receive more than 200 performances over 12 days.
With the tiniest bit of luck, you will be charmed, delighted, disgusted, offended, enraptured and presented with a totally different take on the world.
That is what really makes the Fringe Festival worth seeing. Only the most dedicated will see all 42 shows, but even if you just spend a couple of days fringing, you can see a half-dozen or more performances, touching on everything from tiger moms to circumcision to politics to Greek tragedy (presented as a rock musical) to "what happens when a pot-smoking Jewish lesbian punk-rocker clown from New York goes to work for one of the most conservative think tanks in the nation."
What you get is comic, tragic, poetic and often just plain weird, with such hour-or-less shows as "The Collector," described as a mixture of toy theater, tabletop puppets, object theater, stop motion animation and film. Andrea Isasi, from Madrid, presents "L'extimite," a solo dance/theater show
Fringe shows, with the exception of the one set on the bus, all play within a couple of blocks of each other, at the 50 Mason Street Social House; the Exit Theatres at 156 Eddy St.; and the other Exit Theatre at 277 Taylor St. Tickets to Fringe shows are $10 or less, cash only, at the door; advance sales for most are $12.99 online. A 10-show Frequent Fringer pass is $75, and a five-show pass is $40. The Exit venues are all within walking distance of the Powell Street BART station.
For more information, tickets and a complete schedule, go to www.sffringe.org.
"THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY": The new play by Kristoffer Diaz will make its Bay Area premiere Aug. 30 at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre.
The show is said to be a pointed comedy making some serious commentary on America's reality television values by taking a look at what a midrank pro wrestler -- Macedonio "The Mace" Guerra -- is willing to do to make his mark on the pop-culture pantheon.
The Mace discovers an Indian lad in Brooklyn that he figures will become the perfect foil for Chad Deity, his All-American hero and wrestling champion persona. Exploiting racial and ethnic divides is just one of the themes in this show that received the 2011 Obie Award for best new American play, the Lucille Lortel Award for best new play and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
The show runs through Sept. 30 at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. Tickets, at $32-$48, may be reserved at 510-843-4822 or www.auroratheatre.org.
"THE FISHERMAN'S WIFE": Steve Yockey's new play, which is making its world premiere, will open Impact Theatre's season Thursday in Berkeley.
The farce, inspired by a 200-year-old Japanese woodcut titled "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife," turns the tale silly as it centers on the floundering marriage of a fisherman and his wife.
Trouble starts when the dissatisfied wife meets a traveling salesman and his bag of trouble. Things get more bizarre from there.
The show plays Thursdays through Sept 29 at La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave. Tickets, at $10-$20, may be reserved at http://impacttheatre.com.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.
"Ah, Wilderness": Eugene O'Neill's warm and wistful play about the childhood he wished he'd had opens the annual O'Neill Festival, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of Tao House, the Danville home where the playwright wrote many of his most famous works. The Role Players Ensemble Theatre production plays Fridays through Sundays Sept. 7-22 in the Village Theatre, 233 Front St., Danville. $20-$28; 925-314-3400, www.villagetheatreshows.com.
"All My Sons": Arthur Miller's tragedy, presented by Masquers Playhouse and directed by Dennis Lickteig, plays Friday through Sept. 29 at the Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond; $20; 510-232-4031, www.masquers.org.