Everybody's Doing It
In past years, local comedian Colleen Kruse has turned her storytelling talents to tales of drinking (The Bottle) and waitressing (Food Chain). This year Kruse talks about sex, baby, in Peep Show. Among her autobiographical yarns, Kruse includes a playground incident in which she contrived to sneak a peak at her first male member. "It's about the dawning realization that this is something you might be interested in," she explains. "It's like an evil Wonder Years episode." Although Kruse mines her own life for material, she also promises that the sexual misbehavior in Peep Show will be recognizable to all. "It's not something that's so intensely personal. My goal is to shed light on the banal. I mean, these things don't just happen to me....Good God, I hope they don't!" 9:30 Sat., Feb. 12 and 7:30 Mon., Feb. 14.
Stripping for a Better Body Image
While working in Los Angeles, actor Peggy Kelley used to get sent out on casting calls as "the fat best friend." Kelley turns indignation over the slight into insight in My Bodies of Evidence, a series of comic sketches about body image. Among Kelley's dramatis personae: a nun struggling with her sexuality, an L.A. actress/Weight Watchers guru, and "Harvard Boy," a privileged youth whose infatuation with a female stripper gradually transforms him into the object of his own desire. In preparation for the role, Kelley explains, she herself learned the stripper's art from a professional choreographer. "I wanted to make people uncomfortable," she says, "and at the same time make them laugh." 7:30 Sun., Feb. 13 and 9:30 Fri., Feb. 25.
War: What's it Good For?
A few guilty laughs, if we are to believe Zach Curtis, whose one-man show War Golems relates with an honest and often acridly comic sensibility the experience of his father on a gunship crew in Vietnam (it was co-authored by Rob Curtis and Jon Olsen). "The big thing we got from doing the show at the  Fringe Festival," Zach explains, "is that people didn't realize it was a comedy. They hear 'Vietnam War' and they think, 'Evil, torture, and anger.' There was some of that, but they had fun there, too." 7:30 Wed., Feb. 16 and Sat., Feb. 26.
Happily Never After
For her outré entrée, performer/provocateur Heidi Arneson revives Pre-Hansel and Post-Gretel, a grotesquely comic meditation on the Grimm Brothers. Gretel, "the last nurse on Earth," is recovering from witch-induced posttraumatic stress syndrome, while her brother, now a freak-show carny, works through psychosexual dysfunction in New Brighton. "I do not want to hurt you," Arneson's Hansel explains in one soliloquy. "I do not want to slap my hand against the bare skin of your buttocks. I do not want to stare into your eyes until your pupils deliquesce." For those theatergoers averse to having the bare skin of their buttocks slapped, that ought to come as good news indeed. 7:30 Thurs., Feb. 17 and 9:30 Sat., Feb. 26.
When Poets Attack
Local poetry slam luminary Thien-Bao Phi drops some verse in Flare (which is also the title of his recently released debut CD). Onstage, as on his new album, Phi will be backed by the beatboxing of Truth Maze. Yet the evening's main event will undoubtedly be the silvery lyrical stylings of Phi himself. "Whispering bilingual riddles that turn into the ghosts of breath in the air," he chants in one poem. "Yes, I went looking for our blues, while, overhead, the stars lit up like flares. Asian America, I went looking for you." 9:30 Thurs., Feb. 17 and 7:30 Fri., Feb. 25.
Out of Africa
In Whispers and Shadows, writer/performer Jerrie Steele presents a series of theatrical vignettes about the African-American experience, focusing, by and large, on the legacy of slavery. One, "White Doll," tracks a young girl's relationship to the titular plaything. Another, "Who, What Be Me," is about a slave girl, raped by a white man and sentenced to hang. Says Steele, "Telling her story is a way to bring her back to life." Steele does not limit her subject matter to sentient beings, however. In "The Negress of the Nile," she will wear a mask shaped like an antique plate while drumming in order to relate history from the perspective of dishware. "The drums intensify the feelings of the plate," she explains. 7:30 Fri., Feb. 18 and Mon., Feb. 21.
Reclusive Poet Seeks NS M/F
25-55 for Companionship,
Juilliard-trained actor Anita Skinner returns to the stage after a 20-year hiatus to embody Emily Dickinson in William Luce's The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman show based on the poet's life and letters. The purpose, according to director Mark Miller, is to illuminate the inner sanctum of an artist stranded in a period too unenlightened to accept her. "She had a holistic, new age spirituality at a time when it was unfathomable," Miller says. "People were so conservative about religion then. Everything was about toiling and burden and working hard. Dickinson took spirituality and intellectualism to a place where no one could keep up with her." Which explains the oft-neglected first draft of Dickinson's poem, "Because I Could Not Stop For Death, Instead I Did Tai Chi." 7:30 Sat., Feb. 19 and 2:00 Sun., Feb. 20.