You think things got out of control when Nick and Honey came to visit George and Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Try Lisa D'Amour's Detroit on for size. When Ben and Mary make the acquaintance of Kenny and Sharon, the roof gets razed—actually, burned to a crisp, if you'll pardon a spoiler.
D'Amour's hectic play about the effects of economic desperation on a big city's suburbs (Detroit's never specified despite the play's title) makes the case that while there's a lot to be said for neighbors, there's also a lot to be said against them.
Out-of-work Ben (Steve Gunderson) and alcoholic-in-training Mary (Lisel Gorell-Getz) admit that they're friendless. So, when they notice that the house next door, previously believed vacant, seems to have life stirring within it, they invite the new neighbors over for a cookout. (Grilling is a motif in this production, right up until the granddaddy of all grill jobs at the end.)
Kenny (Jeffrey Jones) and Sharon (Summer Spiro) are—how to put this delicately?—oh, what the hell: white trash. They're recovering addicts, too, but they're affable, and Sharon has the kind of wild abandon about her that repressed Ben and Mary crave. Not surprisingly, the next-door friendship soon goes haywire.
This San Diego Repertory Theatre production directed by Sam Woodhouse is played largely for laughs. There are a couple of bloody accidents, one vomiting sequence, many moments of Sharon running amok and an overlong Act 2 backyard rap with each character indulging his or her trashiest instincts. A slow, reflective denouement in which old man Frank (Robert Benedetti) walks around with a cane and tries to fill in all the unplugged metaphors feels contrived.
The actors are tireless, especially live-wire Spiro, who fills the Lyceum Space with manic energy. Gunderson is almost as winning as Ben, but in a quietly comical turn. The fire at the end of the show, however, is Detroit's emotional high point.
More extended sketch comedy than wholly realized dramedy, Detroit is, in backyard-barbecue parlance, a might overcooked. Pass the beer.
It runs through March 16 at the Lyceum Theatre, at Horton Plaza, Downtown. $31-$47. sdrep.org
Once Upon a Mattress: A no-good queen bars everyone in the kingdom from getting married until a seemingly impossible test is passed. Presented by Pickwick Players, it runs March 6 through 16 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. pickwickplayers.net
Spring Awakening: That awakening is a sexual one, experienced by young adults in a small German town, set to music by Duncan Sheik. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens in previews on March 6 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Timon of Athens: North Coast Rep hosts a staged reading of a rarely performed Shakespeare play about an aristocrat who loves to spend money and gets in hot water with creditors. Staged at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 10, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Underground New Play Festival: Five world-premiere works created and produced by UCSD undergrads, presented in two showcases. Runs March 6 through 16 at UCSD's Arthur Wagner Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Blithe Spirit: The ghost of a writer's ex-wife is summoned during a séance and ends up accidentally killing the guy's current wife, whose ghost then returns for revenge. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it runs through March 9 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Pal Joey: A musical about a scheming son-and-dance man who begins an affair with a wealthy woman in order to realize his dreams of owning a nightclub. Through March 9 at SDSU's Don Powell Theatre. theatre.sdsu.edu
The Who & The What: An author of a book about women and Islam is at serious odds with her traditional Muslim father and her sister. Through March 9 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Detroit: This Pulitzer Prize finalist has a suburban couple hosting a backyard barbecue for their new neighbors. Things go spectacularly awry. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through March 16 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
The Gin Game: Two nursing-home residents engage in psychological warfare as they battle in games of gin rummy. Presented by Talent to aMuse, it runs through March 16 at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. talenttoamuse.com
The School for Lies: A period (17th century) adaptation of Molière's The Misanthrope tells the story of a surly French hater who falls for an acid-tongued young woman. Through March 16 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Winter's Tale: A king goes kooky with jealousy, suspecting that his pregnant wife has had an affair with his good friend, and orders that his newborn baby girl be abandoned in a faraway location. Through March 16 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Boys and Girls: West Coast premiere of a play that tracks a couple of years in the lives of two pairs of people who grapple with their relationships and the prospects of same-sex parenthood. Through March 23 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Edgar & Annabel and Far Away: Ion Theatre is producing a double bill of short plays each night through March 29: Edgar & Annabel, a paranoid thriller about a couple of spies, and Far Away, a dystopian, wartime drama set in factory where hats are made for grim purposes. Through March 29 at BLK BOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
The 39 Steps: This is a return engagement of a comedic, four-actor stage version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, as if performed by Monty Python, with lots of allusions to other Hitchcock classics. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it's ongoing at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.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