The configuration of The Old Globe's Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre—a theater in the round—is ideal for a prizefight. There's a keen view from every seat, and you're close enough to just about feel the smack of fist against skin and bone. But the boxing is only simulated in Marco Ramirez's The Royale, directed by Rachel Chavkin. It would have to be. That the simulations don't work very well is immaterial because—big surprise—this isn't a play about boxing. It's about race. That message is delivered with uppercut intensity in this one-act drama loosely based on the real-life story of heavyweight Jack Johnson, the first African- American to hold the title.
In this case, Jay "The Sport" Jackson ("The Sport" doesn't seem like much of a nickname for a fighter) is trying to break through the white wall of big-time boxing even as bigotry, hatred and violence surround his quest. The depth of the conflict doesn't really take hold until well into the play, when Jackson's sister, Nina (Montego Glover), appears. She also plays a key part in the big fight, which is the script's most inspired turn.
The Royale runs through Nov. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. the oldglobe.org
Compared with her compelling In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) or Dead Man's Cell Phone, playwright Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House (written before the other two) is an uneven work. So is New Village Arts' production of it, which has moments— most of them in the first act—of heartfelt intensity but also lapses into self-consciousness and melodramatics. Still, director Claudio Raygoza's cast is in top form, especially Hannah Logan, playing the cleanliness-obsessed sister to the uptight doctor (Kristianne Kurner) who hires a Brazilian woman (Nadia Guevara), the play's life force, to be her maid.
Ultimately, The Clean House is about humanity, death and dealing with the requisite messiness of our lives. These points, in spite of the production's touching lyrical qualities, become heavy-handed in the second act. We don't need the narrative's significant moments literally spelled out for us via stage projections, as they are here. Reluctant maid Matilde's belief in the power of laughter should be enough.
The Clean House runs through Oct. 26 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $24-$42. newvillagearts.org
Freud's Last Session: Mark St. Germain's play chronicles a fictional meeting between renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and novelist C.S. Lewis. Opens Oct. 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Jersey Boys: The story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, in musical-theater form. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs Oct. 21 through 26 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Little Mermaid Jr.: An adaptation of the 2008 Broadway play about Ariel the mermaid, who wants to live in the terrestrial world. Opens Oct. 17 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Peace Pilgrim: A play about the real-life Mildred Norman, who walked across the country numerous times to deliver a message of world peace. Presented by Plan the Plan Productions, it'll be done as a staged reading on Oct. 20 and as a proper play at Twiggs Coffee House in University Heights on Oct. 23 and 24. plantheplan.org
Rounding Third: Two dads clash amid conflicting Little League coaching styles. Opens Oct. 17 at Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
The Twilight Zone Unscripted: One evening of hilarious Twilight Zone episodes, improvised right there on the spot. Presented by Impro Theatre, it happens Oct. 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Musical of Musicals: The Musical: A musical spoof of —you guessed it—musicals, with humorous takes on several masters of musical theater, such as Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Presented by the Oceanside Theatre Company, it runs through Oct. 19 at The Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. oceansidetheatre.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
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. Through Oct. 26 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
North Park Playwright Festival: This series of new, very short plays runs through Oct. 26 at the North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe. northparkvaudeville.com
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: This is the 2009 adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher of the classic story of the good and evil that resides in us all. Through Nov. 1 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
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
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 runs through Nov. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.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 Nov. 2 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Royale: In the early 20th century, a black heavyweight boxer finally has the chance to fight for the championship, but his sister is worried about the aftermath should he win. Through Nov. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
She-rantulas from Outer Space in 3D: Back by popular demand—a comedy about an invading horde of mutant monsters and small-town mom who learns a horrible truth about her little daughter Suzie. Through Nov. 2 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
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 runs through Nov. 2 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net