Regrets Only looks like what they used to call an old-fashioned "drawing-room comedy." The setting is actually a Park Avenue penthouse living room, but the actors moving about it are glib, sophisticated and well-attired, as befits the genre. Why wouldn't everyone be so natty? After all, the central character of Paul Rudnick's play is a fashion designer whose gowns supposedly make Vera Wang's look like something hanging at a neighborhood yard sale.
The designer, Hank Hadley (Andrew Oswald), is also the catalyst for both the comedy and the dramatic moments of Regrets Only: He's lost his lover of 36 years to cancer, and now his best friend Tibby's (Kerry McCue) buttoned-up husband is drafting an amendment for President George W. Bush that would define marriage strictly as an institution between a man and a woman.
As Hank, Oswald is not only the center of this play's universe, but he's also the most restrained among the six-member cast. This Diversionary Theatre production, actor Jessica John's directorial debut, is loud. Though they can be funny, McCue, Charles Maze (as Tibby's husband), Rachael Van- Wormer (their snooty daughter Spencer), Dagmar Krause Fields (dipsomaniacal Grandma Marietta) and Teri Brown (the maid, Myra) seem to be in volume competition. Brown also pops in and out of the action to make wisecracks, often employing different ethnic accents, and Fields' first appearance on stage is while dressed in trash bags and a traffic cone.
The screwball antics are in competition, too, with the play's weighty questions: What defines marriage, and if a Dubya-administration amendment would deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, what would happen if they just took a day off from society and showed not just New York City but also the nation what life would be like without so many people who contribute to its functions and its joys? So, the tenor of the production goes up and down, not just between Act 1 and Act 2, but also within the second act itself. Only Oswald, most recently at Diversionary in Boys and Girls, navigates the choppy waters smoothly. Everyone else would be wise to take it down a notch.
Regrets Only runs through Sept. 21 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $25-$50. diversionary.org.
Fallen Angels: In Noël Coward's 1925 farce, two women stuck in boring marriages anticipate the impending arrival of a passionate man whom both dated before they were married. Opens in previews on Sept. 3 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Kingdom City: A world-premiere play about a New York theater director who stirs things up in a small, conservative Missouri town when she directs a high-school production of The Crucible. Opens Sept. 4 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Legends (in ten minutes or less): The cast in this evening of seven very short plays includes CityBeat editor David Rolland, and dessert is included in the ticket price. Presented by New Play Café, it opens Sept. 6 on the back patio of DeMi Café Café in University Heights. newplaycafe.com
Our Town: Thornton Wilder's classic story about life and death in the fictional town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Opens Sept. 5 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.org
The Pianist of Willesden Lane: Actor and pianist Mona Golabek tells the story of a 14-year-old music prodigy whose promising career is imperiled by war in Europe in 1938. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens Sept. 3 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Postmortem: It's 1922, and an actor famous for playing Sherlock Holmes has reassembled a group of people who were present a year earlier when someone allegedly committed suicide. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it opens Sept. 6 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The Full Monty: The stage version of the 1997 British film has six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers putting on a strip show to raise money—and their spirits. Through Sept. 7 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
God of Carnage: When two boys get into a fight, their parents get together to calmly discuss what to do about it, but the discussion ends up being anything but calm. Through Sept. 13 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Two friends leave Verona for Milan, where, natch, they get caught up in a love—er, rectangle? Through Sept. 14 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Dearly Beloved: A trio of Texas sisters plan a wedding. Will it be Antebellum-themed? Will it be a big ol' barbecue? Will it go off at all? Through Sept. 21 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Regrets Only: A knee-slapping comedy about a gay fashion designer who challenges a straight acquaintance who happens to be advising President Bush on the ban on gay marriage. Through Sept. 21 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Les Miserables: In this classic musical, a poor Frenchman spends 19 years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread, only to escape and get caught up in a revolution under an assumed identity. Through Sept. 28 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. 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