Autumn is an awesome time for theater

When the world goes crazy — and this world has gone crazy — the world should go to the theater, the oldest, most reliable form of entertainment there is. Here are some of your best local theatrical bets between now and Thanksgiving:

‘Jungle Red’

Artfull Circle Theatre

After a five-year hiatus, this rollicking company, a specialist in drag entertainment, presents the revival of Mark Sargent’s musical parody of “The Women.” Varla Jean Merman, recently seen on “Project Runway,” stars alongside Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, Trauma Flintstone, Ethel Merman (aka Sargent) and Birdie-Bob Watt.

Sept. 10-Oct. 4; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. $30-$40. (415) 334-3307; www.victoriatheatre.org

‘Rock ’n’ Roll’

American Conservatory Theater

One thing ACT does almost better than anybody is the work of Tom Stoppard. The meaty, intellectual content and grand theatrical imagination of Stoppard’s writing fit perfectly on the ACT stage and meld well with artistic director Carey Perloff’s sensibility.

Stoppard’s latest takes him to his Czechoslovakian roots and explores Prague’s rock revolution.

Sept. 11-Oct. 12; 415 Geary St.,

San Francisco. $17-$82. (415) 749-2228; <a href="http://www.act-sf.org" target="_blank">www.act-sf.org

‘The History Boys’

New Conservatory Theatre Center

Alan Bennett’s Tony Award-winning drama finally reaches the Bay Area. A group of boys in a British preparatory school spend the summer cramming for college entrance exams and falling under the spell of an anachronistic professor who believes a well-rounded education is more important than an exam.

Sept. 19-Oct. 26; 25 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. $18-$40. (415) 861-8972; www.nctcsf.org

‘The K of D, an Urban Legend’

Magic Theatre

One of San Francisco’s best-loved theaters gets a fresh start with a new artistic director, Loretta Greco, and a one-woman play starring San Francisco native Maya Lawson as a girl who plays all the members of her small town as she describes the summer that changed her life.

Sept. 20-Oct. 19; Building D, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. $45-$75. (415) 441-8822; www.magictheatre.org

‘A Bronx Tale’

SHN/Best of Broadway

Chazz Palminteri’s one-man play, adapted into a screenplay for Robert DeNiro’s movie directing debut, returns to the stage with Palminteri himself playing all the parts in this story about growing up on some pretty rough streets.

Sept. 23-Oct. 19; Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco. $40-$85. (415) 512-7770; www.shnsf.com

‘Towle’s Hill’

The Marsh

Gundlach Bundschu, California’s oldest family-owned and operated winery decided to celebrate its sesquicentennial by creating a one-man show with Mark Kenward about the winery’s history, which spans California history from the earthquake to prohibition.
Oct. 3-Nov. 21; 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco. $22-$35. (415) 826-5750; www.themarsh.org

‘My Name is Vera Cupido’

Crowded Fire Theater Company

Octavio Solis directs the world premiere of Stephanie Fleischmann’s drama about a young woman mourning the loss of her much older “big love” in Key Biscayne.

Oct. 6-Nov. 2; The Thick House, 1695 18th St., San Francisco. $15-$25. (415) 433-1235; www.crowdedfire.org

‘Radio Golf’

TheatreWorks

August Wilson’s final play makes its first Bay Area bow. This drama about a black man running for mayor is the ’90s chapter of Wilson’s incredible 10-play cycle about life in each decade of the 20th century.

Oct. 8-Nov. 2; Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. $36-$59. (650) 903-6000; www.theatreworks.org

‘One Hundred Years of Queer Theatre’

Theatre Rhinoceros

Working in collaboration with Eastenders Repertory Company, Rhino collects work by Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Djuna Barnes, Craig Lucas and others for three evenings of the queerest theater imaginable.

Oct. 28-Nov. 23; 2926 16th St., San Francisco. $15-$25. (415) 861-5079; www.therhino.org

‘Defying Gravity: Stephen Schwartz and Friends’

Broadway by the Bay

“Wicked” doesn’t return to San Francisco until January 2009, but “Wicked” composer Stephen Schwartz will perform alongside Broadway performers Liz Callaway, Debbie Gravitte and Scott Coulter, as he journeys through his life in musical theater from “Godspell” and “Pippin” to the gravity-defying witches of Oz.

Nov. 6-9; San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo. $25-$40. (650) 679-5565, www.broadwaybythebay.org

‘The Arabian Nights’

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre returns to the Bay Area with another feast for the eyes and ears as she infuses her dynamic theatrical sensibility into the tales of 1,001 nights, complete with genies, Scheherazade and flying carpets.

Nov. 14-Jan. 4; Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. $33-$63. (510) 647-2949; www.berkeleyrep.org

‘Dame Edna — Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour’

Post Street Theatre

Yes, possums, the aubergine-haired dame returns with more audience-embarrassing antics and the kind of comedy only a world-renowned Australian drag queen can conjure.

Nov. 20-Jan. 4; 450 Post St., San Francisco. $58-$78. (415) 771-6900; www.unionsquaretheatres.com

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