It would be an overstatement to call 2013 "The Year of Tom Stoppard" in San Diego theater, but this certainly has been a banner summer and fall for the knighted, Czech-born British playwright, whose wit, intelligence and audacity permeate so many distinguished works. Among them are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Hamlet knockoff that was the highlight of the Old Globe's summer season, and Travesties, the fearless romp through literature and history (with heaping helpings of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest) now on stage at Cygnet's Old Town Theatre.
Cygnet Artistic Director Sean Murray is presenting Travesties and The Importance of Being Earnest in rotating repertory, just as he did 11 years ago, when he was at the helm of North Coast Repertory Theatre. Seven actors are doing double duty, appearing in both plays: Jordan Miller, Maggie Carney, Manny Fernandes, Jacque Wilke, Brian Mackey, David Cochran Heath and Rachael VanWormer.
Of the two plays, Travesties is the more daunting, in part because of its non-linear composition, packed as it is with commentary on artistic purpose, precepts of Dadaism, characterizations of Lenin and James Joyce and Tristan Tzara (a founder of the Dada movement) and the weaving of Wilde's classic The Importance of Being Earnest. It's all recounted by the highly unreliable narrator that is Henry Carr (Miller), who may or may not be remembering actual events from World War I-era Zurich.
The effect is exhausting, as the action on stage seems to spin giddily out of control (though it's not, thanks to Murray's deft direction and a cast operating with pinpoint precision), and the literary, philosophical and political references are so ubiquitous that even the most scholarly audience member should keep his or her program glossary handy. In spite of these challenges, you can't help but appreciate anew Stoppard's creative stamina and inventiveness. Travesties might not make you want to sit down and read Joyce's gargantuan Ulysses, but it might reaffirm your belief in the integrity of knighthood and remind you that Sir Stoppard is worthy of that and more.
Travesties runs (in rotation with The Importance of Being Earnest) through Oct. 27 at the Old Town Theatre. $19-$54. cygnettheatre.com
Wait Until Dark: Three no-goodniks attempt to steal a doll secretly containing heroin from a too-clever blind woman. Now in previews, it opens Oct. 5 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Wit: An English professor dying from cancer reflects on her life during her final hours. Opens Oct. 4 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
WithOutWalls fest: A series of unconventional, sitespecific theater performances held in various La Jolla locations. Runs Oct. 3 through 6. See lajollaplayhouse.com for all the details. And read our lead "Short List" event pick here.
The Who's Tommy: Some San Diego trivia: Des McAnuff, former artistic director at the La Jolla Playhouse, co-wrote this musical with Pete Townshend, based on The Who's album about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard. Through Oct. 5 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
A Weekend with Pablo Picasso: Herbert Siguenza brings the legendary modern artist back to life in a one-man show. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Oct. 13 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Lettice and Lovage: A woman gets sacked from her job leading tours of a boring 16th-century English hall for making up fascinating stories about it and later sparks up a friendship with the woman who fired her. Through Oct. 6 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The Maids: When the woman of the house is away, two maids begin to play—in a sadomasochistic way. Presented by Talent to aMuse Theatre Company, it runs through Oct. 6 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. talenttoamuse.com
Skin Deep: Maureen Mulligan is overweight, middle-aged and single. But, she decides to go on a blind date anyhow, which leads to some important life lessons. Through Oct. 6 at Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Logan Heights: The local premiere of a play, by Josefina Lopez (Real Women Have Curves), about an immigrant family living in the titular San Diego neighborhood. Through Oct. 12 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Ain't Misbehavin': San Diego Musical Theatre presents this tribute to jazz pianist, singer and composer Fats Waller, essentially a revue of 1920s and '30s swing music. Through Oct. 13 at the Birch North Park Theatre. sdmt.org
The Amish Project: A one-woman play inspired by the killing of five girls at a Pennsylvania school seven years ago. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through Oct. 20 at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. moolelo.net
The Few: This is a world premiere of a comedy about a small-town Idaho newspaper publisher who returns after four years to find that things have changed. Through Oct. 27 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The Important of Being Earnest: Two guys, named Jack and Algernon, pretend to be named Earnest to win over a couple of ladies who've got a thing for the name. Oscar Wilde's funniest play, presented by Cygnet Theatre, runs through Oct. 27 at Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.org
Travesties: Aging Henry Carr recalls WWI-era Zurich, where he was acquainted with James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dadaism—and he does so by way of Oscar Wilde. Kooky? Well, that's Tom Stoppard for ya. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Oct. 27 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Last Goodbye: Dig Jeff Buckley? How about Shakespeare? Get some of both from this modern take on Romeo and Juliet set to Buckley's music. Runs through Nov. 3 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
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