If you're in a generous mood, you can appreciate the absurdity of Christopher Durang's Baby with the Bathwater, a wicked indictment of incompetent parenting swaddled in broad comic wrapping. To wit: Dipsomaniacal John and neurotic-with-a-capital-"N" Helen refer to their new little one not as "he" or "she" but as "it." The nanny who arrives like a twisted Mary Poppins, complete with umbrella, happily tosses "It" into the bassinet like a loaf of bread. Another mother not named Helen leaves her own infant at home alone with a hungry dog, which proceeds to devour the baby. All the dark humor is intended to stimulate our serious thinking about parenthood, childhood, gender and societal expectations.
So it does. Yet the laughs in Durang's 1983 comedy, now on stage at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights, are hit-and-miss.
There's a hysteria to the performances of Amanda Sitton and Brian Mackey as the unqualified parents of "Daisy," not seen until well into Act 2, that's more irritating than funny. While the always good-for-a-yuk Shana Wride milks every moment out of the subversive-nanny role (and a couple of others later), those antics, too, turn tiresome after awhile.
By the time the teenaged Daisy appears, she's the he that he always was—you're reading that correctly—and wants badly to understand himself and the world around him. But whatever understanding we come to embrace for the character, earnestly portrayed by J. Tyler Jones, must compete against a familiar unseen-psychiatrist bit and the shrill return of Sitton and Mackey as the older but still out-of-control Mom and Pop. The raucous tone of the production suggests that our understanding is less important than our laughter, anyway.
The Diversionary production, directed by Andrew Oswald, pays tribute to the play's '80s incarnation, with nuggets like "Tainted Love" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" bridging scenes. Kate Bishop's costume designs are delightfully retro, and the various wigs worn by supporting actor Kailey O'Donnell nicely create the illusion that the Baby with the Bathwater cast is bigger than you thought it was.
Baby with the Bathwater runs through March 29 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $29-$51. diversionary.org
Anna in the Tropics: Tolstoy's Anna Karenina becomes a catalyst for workers in a Florida cigar factory in 1929. Opens March 12 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Kin: Playwright Bathsheba Doran explores the families of Anna and Sean, who meet on an online dating site. Presented by Ion Theatre, it opens in previews on March 12 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Our Lady of the Tortilla: Hijinks—and an examination of faith—ensue when a New Jersey woman sees an image of the Virgin Mary in a tortilla. Opens March 13 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Romeo and Juliet: Two teens fall in love and die because their stupid families are stupid and can't get along. Opens March 12 at Grossmont College. grossmont.edu/campus-life/arts-culture/theater-arts
Time Stands Still: A staged reading of a play about a war photographer and a war reporter who return home to Brooklyn and cope with life away from the rush of danger. It happens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 16, at the Carlsbad City Library. carlsbadplayreaders.org
3 Plays in a Tattoo Shop: Yep, it's pretty self-explanatory. The Trip theater group's performing three short plays at Full Circle Tattoo in South Park (2312 30th St.). Runs through March 15. thetriptheater.net
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
Alice: Curious and Curiouser!: SDSU's School of Theatre, Television and Film performs an adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. Through March 15 in the Don Powell Theatre at SDSU. ttf.sdsu.edu
The Drowsy Chaperone: As a Broadway enthusiast listens to a recording of an old-timey musical, the production comes to life in his small apartment. Through March 15 at the MiraCosta College Theatre in Oceanside. hub.miracosta.edu/Theatre/productions.htm
Annie: A cute li'l orphan longs to find her parents and enlists a rich guy to help her. Presented by J*Company Youth Theatre, it runs through March 21 at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre in La Jolla. sdcjc.org/jc
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
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 runs through March 22 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
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 22 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.com
Oedipus El Rey: A modern take on Sophocles' classic tragedy, set not in ancient Greece but, rather, in a Southern California barrio. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through March 28 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
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. Through March 29 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 they're ready to start dating. You either love Neil Simon or you hate him. Through March 29 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
God Committee: In this drama, seven people must decide which one of four individuals on a transplant waiting list will get a heart that has suddenly become available. Through March 29 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Goodbye Charlie: A womanizing writer is murdered by an angry husband and is reincarnated immediately as a beautiful woman (Lauren Bacall in the original play, Debbie Reynolds in the movie). Through March 29 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
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
My Fair Lady: A man attempts to turn a rough-around-the-edges girl into something more sophisticated—and then develops the hots for her. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through April 26 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Pirates of Penzance: Nine actors stranded on a desert island perform Gilbert and Sullivan's classic comic opera. Through April 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
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