Diversionary Theatre in University Heights is staging the West Coast premiere of Marc Acito's one-act play Birds of a Feather, the story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who are given an egg to hatch and, subsequently, a chick to raise. It's based on a true story and on the 2005 children's book, And Tango Makes Three, that popularized the same-gender penguin parenting and incited many a moralizing conservative.
Steve Gunderson and Mike Sears, each a gifted comedic actor strong on physicality, hilariously inhabit the penguin roles without seeming silly. They do double duty as a hetero (the implication is that penguin parents Roy and Silo are gay) hawk couple, Pale Male and Lola. Gunderson and Sears both indulge a moment as Roy and Silo's grown chick as well.
Where Birds of a Feather strays is when the focus turns to its four human characters, all played by Rachael VanWormer and Kevin Koppman-Gue. These include network newscaster Paula Zahn, her husband, a zookeeper and a birdwatcher. The charm, wit and innate drama of Acito's play (he also wrote the book for last year's potent Allegiance at The Old Globe) reside in the two penguin characters more than in the tribulations (however true) and retrospections of mere humans.
Birds of a Feather runs through March 3 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $25- $51. diversionary.org
Cruel intentions abound in Ion Theatre's production of British playwright Simon Stephens' Punk Rock, in which bullying, baiting and general nastiness at a northwest English public school lead inevitably to shocking violence. Benjamin Cole, seen in last year's The Mystery Plays at Ion, portrays Bennett, the biggest bully of them all, and his chief target is David Ahmadian's nihilistic Chadwick. But the most neurotic in the bunch is J. Tyler Jones' William, behind whose puppy-dog eyes lurks terrible pain and impulse.
Punk Rock is relentless in its darkness. School newcomer Lilly (Lizzie Morse) comes closest to being a sympathetic protagonist, but even she is swallowed up in an adolescent inhumanity that goes way beyond angst. There are no fresh revelations about teendom or meanness, though as with the recurring real-life headlines of mayhem inundating us, we can't ignore them.
Punk Rock runs through March 9 at Ion's BLK- BOX Theatre in Hillcrest. $15-$33. iontheatre.com
Time Stands Still: A couple—she a war photojournalist, he a war reporter—return from Iraq after she's injured and face a less-exhilarating future together. Opens Feb. 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Tonight We Improvise: It's playwright Luigi Pirandello's play within a play, chronicling a troupe of actors' improvisational take on Pirandello's own novella, Leonora, Addio!, about a controversial Italian family. Presented by UCSD's Department of Theatre and Dance, it opens Feb. 20 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre at UCSD. theatre.ucsd.edu
The Brothers Size: A young man is recently out of prison and living with his car-mechanic brother when an acquaintance from the lockup shows up and causes some turmoil. Through Feb. 24 at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Gem of the Ocean: In August Wilson's play, a 285-year-old matriarch and former slave named Aunt Ester leads a man down a path to self-discovery in 1904 Pittsburgh. Through Feb. 24 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Birds of a Feather: Human actors play two gay penguins who raise a chick in the Central Park Zoo and an opposite-sex couple of hawks who do the same on a ledge of a swanky Manhattan high-rise. Yep, based on true events. Through March 3 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
The Bluest Eye: This adaptation of Toni Morrison's 1970 focuses on an 11-year-old girl in 1940s Ohio who's been led to believe that her dark skin makes her ugly. Jointly presented by Moxie Theatre and Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through March 3 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com, moolelo.net
Chicago: Staged locally almost as often as Rent, this musical's about women in the 1920s who sing songs and also murder people. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through March 3 at the Birch North Park Theatre. sdmt.org
DNA New Work Series: La Jolla Playhouse is providing rehearsal space and resources to new playwrights developing their scripts, the results of which will be presented in staged readings or workshopped productions through March 3. Check lajollaplayhouse.org for the schedule of performances.
Pete 'n Keely: It's the late-1960s, and a successful singing duo who haven't spoken in five years have decided to reunite for a live TV special. Through March 3 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Ruthless! The Musical: In this all-female satire, an 8-year-old wannabe star murders the girl who got the lead in the school play. Then some really crazy shit happens. Through March 3 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Trip to Bountiful: In spite of the objections of her son and daughter-in-law, an elderly woman treks from Houston to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas, and finds that things have changed. Through March 3 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Punk Rock: This is the West Coast premiere of a drama about seven affluent British prep-school teens getting ready for final exams. It doesn't end well. Through March 9 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.
People Say You Can't Live Without Love I Think Oxygen is More Important: A musical revue about love. Through March 10 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Sailor's Song: In John Patrick Shanley's play, a seaman who's trying to find his way in life meets to beguiling sisters and tries to find his way with them. Through March 10 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
South Pacific: Love blossoms for two couples amid racial prejudice and World War II in this classic musical. Runs through March 17 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatres.com
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net