Besides sharing an important, under-told story, The Old Globe's The Twenty-seventh Man showcases three veteran actors at the peak of their game. Hal Linden, Ron Orbach and Robert Dorfman portray three (of 26) Soviet Jewish writers who were jailed and then executed at Stalin's behest on "The Night of the Murdered Poets."
In this potent one-act play, written by Nathan Englander and directed by the Globe's Barry Edelstein (who directed its New York premiere in 2012), the silver-haired Linden is Yevgeny Zunser, who's regarded as a national treasure. Ever the wise and dignified man, he accepts his fate behind bars. Orbach's Moishe Bretzky is the most emotional of the three, a blustering man of temptations and passions. Dorfman's Vasily Korinsky is the most visibly shaken and, in his mind, the most betrayed. Into their cell comes the titular 27th man—actually a boy, Pinchas Pelovits (Eli Gelb). How he fits into the moving and terrible denouement provides the play's subtextual intrigue.
The Twenty-seventh Man is a study in courage and truth in self that, for the most part, avoids mere philosophizing. Rarely will you encounter a play set in a prison cell so liberating.
It runs through March 22 at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. theoldglobe.org
Intrepid Shakespeare Company does a bang-up job with Rebecca Feldman and William Finn's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, now marking 10 years since it opened on Broadway. The spacious theater on the campus of San Marcos High School is ideal for this crowd-pleasing production, directed by former Moonlight Stage Production artistic director Kathy Brombacher. Geno Carr and his wife, Nancy Snow Carr, anchor a delightfully eccentric cast, with Omri Schein and Sarah Errington standouts among the young spelling contestants.
Thanks to the "use it in a sentence" quips of Geno Carr's uptight vice principal, the good-sport audience contestants and musical numbers that are just the right length and gravity, Spelling Bee is a splendiferous—I hope that's spelled correctly—two hours of entertainment.
It runs through March 15 at the San Marcos Performing Arts Center on the San Marcos High School campus. $35. intrepidshakespeare.com
Baby with the Bathwater: In this comedy by Christopher Durang, a couple of not-so-great parents produce a child who grows up struggling with identity issues. Opens Feb. 26 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Chapter Two: A man whose wife died recently and a woman whose marriage has just ended aren't sure if they're ready to start dating. You either love Neil Simon or you hate him. Opens in previews on Feb. 25 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Hamlet: Shakespeare's classic tragedy about the vengeful prince gets a treatment at UCSD. Opens Feb. 25 at UCSD's Mandell Weiss Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Love, Loss, and What I Wore: A series of monologues written by Nora and Delia Ephron, performed by five women, in which clothing is the focal point of life stories. Presented by Philip Roger Roy and Dana Matthow, it opens Feb. 25 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
Mr. Doctor: A free staged reading of a new musical co-written by B.D. Wong, artist-in-residence at La Jolla Playhouse, and composer Wayne Barker. It starts at 5 p.m. on Feb 27 and 28 in the Experimental Theatre on the SDSU campus. Reservations are required: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prison Boxing: A free, one-woman show written and performed by Leah Joki about life and culture in state lockup. It starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Performance Hall 111 in the Arts Building on the CSU San Marcos campus. csusm.edu/sofa (click "SofA Events").
Ryes: A museum in post-Katrina Louisiana opens an exhibition of Civil War artifacts, but they might not be authentic. Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs through Feb. 28 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
DNA New Work Series: La Jolla Playhouse hosts two weeks' worth of workshopped plays and staged readings of new material by emerging writers, giving the public a chance to see how these pieces are developed. Through March 1. lajollaplahouse.org
Into the Woods: The classic musical that debuted at The Old Globe Theater in 1986 this time gets a treatment by Pickwick Players. It runs through March 1 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
The Marriage of Bette and Boo: Christopher Durang's play covers three decades of turmoil-plagued matrimony and separation between the title characters, narrated by their son. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, it runs through March 1 in UCSD's Arthur Wagner Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play: In the aftermath of nuclear catastrophe, survivors recount an episode of The Simpsons. Seven years later, they're a Simpsons performance group. Decades later, people have sort of become Simpsons characters. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, it runs through March 1 in UCSD's Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Murder at the Howard Johnson's: A slapstick comedy about a plan by woman and her lover to off her husband. Through March 1 at The Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
Murder for Two: In this musical, one actor plays a detective, and another plays 10 different people who are suspected of murdering a famous novelist during his birthday party. Through March 1 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Sondheim on Sondheim: A revue of the legendary composer's work, featuring two-dozen classic tunes. Presented by Moonlights Stage Productions, it runs through March 1 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Stage Kiss: In this farce, two actors with a romantic past are cast in a play about two people with a romantic past. Through March 1 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
This: In this comedy, a group of friends struggle with their demons and confront middle age. Through March 1 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
West Side Story: It's pretty much Romeo and Juliet, but in 1950s New York City—and there's singing and dancing. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through March 1 at Spreckels Theatre, Downtown. sdmt.org
The Darrell Hammond Project: Darrell Hammond, the longest-tenured cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live, tells his own life story in a one-man show. Through March 8 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Adult actors play quirky middle-school students in a musical comedy about a spelling contest. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through March 15 in the Performing Arts Center at San Marcos High School. intrepidshakespeare.com
The Twenty-seventh Man: It's 1952, and Stalin has jailed 26 luminaries of Yiddish literature. The story truly begins when No. 27 arrives behind bars. Through March 15 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.com
The Grift at the Lafayette Hotel: Director Tom Salamon's latest immersive theater experience takes audiences in and out of various rooms and other spaces inside one of San Diego's coolest hotels. Presented by La Jolla Playhouse, it runs through March 22 at the Lafayette Hotel in University Heights. lajollaplayhouse.org
You Can't Take it with You: Zany characters abound, and kooky things keep happening, in the home of Paul and Penny Sycamore. Through March 29 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: In a musical based on a biblical tale, a dude who has an "amazing" garment becomes a slave, but he triumphs in Egypt regardless. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through May 31 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
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