Picture a human being completely devoid of skin— a walking, breathing mass of viscera and bone, something like those anatomical figures you see in science textbooks or on the otherwise sterile walls of doctors' offices. Zinnia Wells, the haunted heroine of Skinless—Johnna Adams' new play now on stage at Moxie Theatre under the direction of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg—writes about these frightening creatures in her novel-in-progress, and she sees them, as alive as the moonless night, in the forest beyond her dysfunctional home.
This is half the premise of Skinless. The other, dialectical half is a philosophical contretemps between Emmi, a graduate student in women's studies, and dissertation director Sylvia Diaz. At stake is the definition and, to their way of thinking, the future of feminism. The connective thread is Emmi's fascination with the late, under-regarded writer Wells, around whose life she pines to do her academic research. No dice, says Sylvia, dismissing Wells as a forgettable crafter of horror whose immortalizing in a university library would do nothing to further the feminist fight.
Playwright Adams is an intelligent, prodigious wordsmith, and it's that talent that compensates for the deficiency in theatricality in Skinless, which finds Zinnia (an otherworldly Jo Anne Glover) reading aloud from her book much of the time. In addition, the office showdowns between Emmi (Anna Rebek) and Sylvia (Rhona Gold) are longer on polemics than on drama, but the questions they raise—about women, about power, about identity—are worthy ones.
The set is literally divided in two: the bookish university office of the present on the left, the front porch of the house of Zinnia, her sisters and her unseen bedridden mother on the right. Lurking in the darkness of the siblings' collective imagination are the skinless people. There's no definitive answer as to who they are. One possibility, we learn as a horrific family secret is revealed, is a shocking one.
Skinless should rely more on atmosphere and timely silences, each in their way more eloquent than the pages of a novel or the platitudes of academia.
The play runs through Dec. 8 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $27. moxietheatre.com
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: This'll be the 16th year that the green one will slink onto the stage at The Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. "Fah Who Doraze," indeed. Opens Nov. 16. oldglobe.org
Evita: The life and times of Eva Perón, who rose to power as the first lady of Argentina, set to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs Nov. 12 through 17 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Laramie Project: The theatrical reaction to the 1998 hate-motivated murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. Opens Nov. 15 in the Don Powell Theatre at SDSU. theatre.sdsu.edu
Little Shop of Horrors: A meek flower-shop employee nurtures a mysterious plant that becomes a human-devouring monster. Music! Death! Fun! Presented by Pickwick Players, it opens Nov. 15 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window: A struggling writer and his struggling-actor wife deal with their problematic marriage amid politics and personal anguish in Greenwich Village. Opens Nov. 15 at the Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre at UCSD. theatre.ucsd.edu
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity: Ion Theatre's political satire finds a TV-wrestling promoter casting a protagonist wrestler's young Indian-American protégé as a terrorist character called The Fundamentalist. Through Nov. 16 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
The Brothers Lipschitz: All we know about this one is that it was written by (and stars) Paul David Halem and is about two elderly brothers who, apparently, want to strangle each other. Through Nov. 17 at Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Drums in the Night: Bertolt Brecht's play was about a German soldier returning from World War I; UCSD's update is about a POW returning from Iraq, with a bad case of PTSD. Through Nov. 17 at the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre at UCSD. theatre.ucsd.edu
Much Ado About Nothing: This production of Shakespeare's comedy is jointly presented by The Old Globe Theatre and the University of San Diego. Through Nov. 17 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
She-rantulas from Outer Space in 3D: A world-premiere comedy about an invading horde of mutant monsters and small-town mom who learns a horrible truth about her little daughter Suzie. Through Nov. 17 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Wit: An English professor dying from cancer reflects on her life during her final hours. Through Nov. 17 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Tribute: A 51-year-old actor's who's lived a carefree life learns he has leukemia and reconnects with the son that he's long neglected. Presented by Sullivan Players, it runs through Nov. 23 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. facebook.com/sullivan.players
The Violet Hour: It's 1919, and a young publisher must to decide whether to release his friend's novel or his mistress' memoir. Enter a mysterious, future-seeing, paper-spewing machine. Through Nov. 23 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Suds: The Rockin' '60s Musical Soap Opera: The story of a young woman looking for love in a Laundromat frames a soundtrack of '60s hits. Runs through Dec. 1 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Gift Teller: Playwright, director and screenwriter Stephen Metcalfe's update of A Gift of the Magi gets a world premiere. Through Dec. 8 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Skinless: The opening play of Moxie Theatre's ninth season follows a student who bases her dissertation on an obscure horror and sci-fi writer and gets more than she bargained for. Through Dec. 8 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Venus in Fur: A writer-director who's created an adaptation of the novel Venus in Furs gets the tables turned on him by an actress who insists on reading for the lead role. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Dec. 8 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Side Show: A musical based on a true story about conjoined twins and circus-freak-show performers Violet and Daisy Hilton, who find fame as a vaudeville act and search for true love. Through Dec. 15 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.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