Enough already with The Crucible! Arthur Miller's 1953 play about the Salem witch trials is as omnipresent in San Diego this fall as sticky weather. It's the backdrop for La Jolla Playhouse's Kingdom City, in which a group of high-school teenagers putting on the play begin to act out like Miller's characters. And now it's getting a sequel of sorts at Moxie Theatre, where two of The Crucible's principal figures, Abigail and Mercy, are seen 10 years after the witch trials in Liz Duffy Adams' A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World.
Regardless of what you think about The Crucible, Moxie's 10th-season-opening production, like Kingdom City, rises and falls on its own merits.
A Discourse is a period piece, with director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg's cast in circa-1700 costumes (nicely designed by Jennifer Brawn Gittings). The setting is a New England tavern run with full military vigor by Mercy Lewis (Wendy Waddell), who 10 years earlier had cried "Witch!" and brought about numerous executions. A surprise visitor to her door is fellow former "witch hunter" Abigail Williams (Jo Anne Glover), who's been off seeing the world and, more profoundly, finding the tragic wrong in her and Mercy's fatal indictments.
Mercy doesn't want to hear it. Nor does blowhard Reverend Peck (Nick Young), hick farmer Judah (Christopher Murphy) and tavern girl Rebekkah (Olivia Hicks), who embark upon a kangaroo court to convict Abigail as a witch herself. Into the fray comes an imposing stranger in black (Jorge Rodriguez), who all (perhaps even Abigail) believe is Satan himself.
The impromptu trial is awkward and stagey, rescued by "Satan's" pre-intermission pyrotechnics. In Act 2, when Abigail and the stranger are alone on the tavern roof, the play's bombastic tenor abates and the revelations about worlds visible and invisible, and about what real atrocity the witch trials are covering for, become clear. Glover and Rodriguez unearth these discoveries thoughtfully and tenderly. The play as a whole, however, flirts with comedy and melodrama in equal measure before settling for pensive discourse. Its spirited cast aside, it could benefit from another draft.
A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World runs through Oct. 12 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $25-$27. moxietheatre.com
The Clean House: In case you missed it at PowPAC in June, it's the story of a woman, her maid who doesn't like cleaning houses and her husband who falls in love with another woman who's dying of cancer. Opens Sept. 26 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Fool for Love: Performed in rotation with True West, Sam Shepard's drama tells the tale of a woman resisting the offer to return to a dysfunctional existence with an old flame. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens in previews on Sept. 24 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Graduate: MiraCosta College's Theatre Department celebrates its 50th anniversary with the stage adaptation of the classic 1967 film about young Benjamin and that sultry seductress, Mrs. Robinson. Opens Sept. 25 at the MiraCosta Theatre on the Oceanside campus. hub.miracosta.edu/theatre
Next to Normal: A gripping musical about a suburban family coping with mother Diana's bipolar disorder and delusions of her dead son. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it opens Sept. 26 at the North Park Theatre. sdmt.org
Rabbit Hole: SDSU's School of Theatre, Television and Film takes on the story of a husband and wife struggling as they mourn the loss of their 4-year-old son. Opens Sept. 26 in SDSU's Experimental Theatre. ttf.sdsu.edu
True West: Performed in rotation with Fool for Love, Sam Shepard's dark comedy is about two formerly estranged brothers—younger Austin, a screenwriter, and older Lee, a thief who horns in on Austin's career. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens in previews on Sept. 25 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Catch Me If You Can: A musical version of the 2002 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, about a young con man and the FBI agent who pursues him. Through Sept. 27 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
I am My Own Wife: One person takes on 35 roles in an award-winning play about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transgendered German antiquities collector whose early life was lived during the Third Reich. Presented by The New Group West, it runs through Sept. 28 at 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. thenewgroupwest.com
Kinky Boots: Based on the 2005 film of the same name, this musical tells the tale of a young man who saves his father's dying shoe factory by having it turn out footwear for drag performers. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through Sept. 28 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
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
Our Town: Thornton Wilder's classic story about life and death in the fictional town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Through Sept. 28 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.org
Red Planet Respite: In this original sci-fi farce, it's 2044 and a crew is heading to Mars to prepare a luxury resort. On the way there, things get weird. Presented by Circle Circle Dot Dot, it runs through Sept. 28 at La Jolla Playhouse. circle2dot2.com
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. Through Oct. 5 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. Through Oct. 5 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
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 runs through Oct. 5 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Race: In David Mamet's play, a white businessman is accused of raping a black woman, and his law firm turns to a black, female attorney for guidance. Presented by Different Stages, it runs through Oct. 5 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. differentstages.biz
Shaken Not Stirred: A plain librarian's world is rocked when two men in black move in next door. Through Oct. 5 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
This Wide Night: Two women, former cellmates, have been released from prison and now must navigate a challenging life of freedom in London. Presented by Ion Theatre Company, it runs through Oct. 11 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Corpse!: In London in 1936, a woman plots with a man to murder his wealthy twin brother. Through Oct. 12 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World: A young woman returns to Salem 10 years after the Witch Trials, but she's not the only interesting newcomer. Through Oct. 12 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
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's been extended through Oct. 12 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Scott Joplin's New Rag: In a world premiere, Robert Barry Fleming, who wrote the script, performs a one-person play about ragtime composer Scott Joplin. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through Oct. 19 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net
Bright Star: A world-premiere musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell about a soldier who returns home to North Carolina from World War II, hooks up with a literary-journal editor and, with her, discovers a life-changing secret. Through Nov. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.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