Hippin’ Shakespeare’s hop, selling Benzali’s Willy, trying Barker’s `Devil’

Always a lot going on in the big, wide world of Bay Area theater, so let’s get right to it.

The African-American Shakespeare Company is in the midst of MacB: The MacBeth Project, a hip-hop reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic tale of vaulting ambition. In this re-telling, MacBeth is reincarnated as a record industry mogul and his struggle for power involves becoming the top dog in the music business. Destiny intervenes in the form of three witches disguised as a pop trio – perhaps Destiny’s Child? – and the play revolves around corruption, greed, violence and, of course, music.

This production is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The production was presented last August at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and continues through Sunday, Oct. 5 at the Buriel Clay Theatre, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25 general, $20 students and seniors. Call 800-838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com or www.african-americanshakes.org for information.

LOMAN FAMILY REUNION: Film and television actor Daniel Benzali (“Murder One,” “NYPD Blue”), takes on one of the biggest roles in American drama. He’ll play Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman for Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse. The production Opens Friday, Oct. 3 and runs through Oct. 26 at the 6th Street Playhouse’s GK Hardt Theatre, 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa. The production is directed by Sheri Lee Miller. The cast also includes Tori Truss of San Anselmo as Linda Loman, Tim Kniffin of Santa Rosa as Biff Loman and Michael Navarra of San Rafael as Happy Loman. Tickets are $14-$30. Call 707-523-4184 or visit www.6thstreetplayhouse.com for information.

BARKER RAISES THE DEVIL: Horror meister Clive Barker is best known as a novelist and sometime collaborator with Stephen King. But in the early ’80s, Barker wrote a collection of plays called Incarnations for his own company, The Dog Company. But with a marquee name like Barker’s the plays have popped up in productions around the world.

The East Bay’s Ragged Wing Ensemble presents the Northern California premiere of Barker’s The History of the Devil, described by the author as “John Milton meets John Grisham,” is a story of redemption, compassion and fear. It takes place at the Devil’s parole hearing, where audience members sit in as jurors and see evidence of the Devil’s actions throughout history.

The History of the Devil opens Friday, Oct. 3 and runs through Nov. 1 at the Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond. Tickets are $15-$30. Call 800-838-3006 or visit www.raggedwing.org for information.

Katie Holmes is actually a live actor!

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images / Jan. 9, 2008

It’s true! Katie Holmes isn’t just a pretty, skinny Victoria Beckham-wannabe clothes horse; nor is she simply a trophy wife capable of possibly giving birth to her movie star husband’s adorable progeny.

No, it turns out that Katie Holmes is actually a three-dimensional acting person. How do we know this? She’s doing what most failed movie actresses do when their managers tell them it’s time for an image improvement.

She’s going to Broadway.

As had been rumored for a while, Holmes will make her Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 drama All My Sons.

So let me just make sure I’ve got everything straight here. Great play about a manufacturer whose greedy sloppiness may have cost American soldiers’ lives — check. Great, capable actors — Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow and Patrick Wilson, check. Presence of Tom Cruise’s wife, whose theater chops are completely untested — check. Now don’t get me wrong. Back in the day I was a huge “Dawson’s Creek” fan, watched every episode and developed some affection for the young Ms. Holmes, whose gawky charm was just right for her character, Joey Potter. But it takes a giant leap of imagination to see that kind of small-screen acting translating well to the stage. In her checkered movie career, Holmes actually registerd in Pieces of April, though my favorite of her movie roles is in Sam Raimi’s 2000 The Gift. That’s the Holmes I’d like to see on stage.

The Simon McBurney-directed All My Sons will bow later this fall. Theater tbd.

It’s probably not at all surprising that Holmes’ jump to the stage follows two things: a flop movie (Mad Money alongside Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah) and Jennifer Garner’s successful stint in Cyrano opposite Kevin Kline. All those tabloid shots of the grinning Garner and hubby Ben Affleck playing in New York parks with daughter Violet were probably more than Holmes could stand: credibility and maximum exposure.

K-K-K-Katie Holmes on Broadway, `Tales’ in tune

Yes, Katie Holmes, late of Dawson’s Creek, she of the couch-jumping husband, the ever-changing cute hairdos and the impossibly adorable Suri parentage, is being rumored to be heading to Broadway for a revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons starring John Lithgow and Dianne Weist. Ms. Holmes must have had a conversation with Jennifer Garner, who had such a winning run on Broadway recently in Cyrano. And Holmes’ husband, Tom Cruise, must have had a man-to-man chat with Garner’s husband, Ben Affleck, about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home dad in paparazzi-infested New York.

Variety says the 29-year-old Holmes is in negotiation for the 1947 show, which would mark her Broadway debut. The stage run would also give Ms. Holmes a little much-needed acting cred. Her most recent big-screen turn, opposite Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah in Mad Money didn’t exactly generate Oscar buzz.

In other news of the Great White Way (via Barbaray Lane in San Francisco), the long-rumored musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City looks like it’s finally rolling toward completion. It was long rumored that pop wunderkind Rufus Wainwright was going to turn Maupin’s beloved Baghdad by the Bay book into a musical, but now he’s off writing an opera for the MET.

So now it’s up to Jeff Whitty (Tony Award-winning book writerfor Avenue Q) and Scissor Sisters members Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears, composer/lyricist) and John Garden (composer) to bring characters Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, Anna Madrigal, Mary Anne Singleton to the Broadway stage.

Jason Moore, who helmed Avenue Q and the upcoming Shrek musical, is slated to direct.

Seems a natural that a Tales musical would have its pre-Broadway run in — where else? — San Francisco. No word yet on such practical things as production dates.