The year is just halfway through, but the comic performance of 2015 so far has to go to Samantha Ginn, who stars as a dog—yep, a dog—in New Village Arts Theatre's delightful production of A.R. Gurney's Sylvia.
As a precocious pooch adopted by a New Yorker named Greg (Daren Scott) who's engulfed in middle-aged malaise, Ginn scratches, sniffs, makes goo-goo eyes at her master, bounds around the stage on all fours, wags an imaginary tail, and thoroughly charms most everyone except Greg's exasperated and justifiably jealous wife, Kate (Saverina Scopelleti).
This ménage-a-dog is bursting with physical humor (courtesy of Ginn, who memorably played a canine a couple of years ago in La Jolla Playhouse's Car Plays) and witty lines from Sylvia, who speaks rather than woofs. When the athletic and unselfconscious Ginn is offstage, or when the play strives for meaningful messages, Sylvia lags a bit. But when Ginn is out there doing her thing, this comedy is a howl.
Gurney's popular play is 20 years old, but its topical relevance to empty-nest couples and dog lovers everywhere is timeless. As New Village's staging directed by Kristianne Kurner demonstrates, if you have a blue-ribbon Sylvia in your cast, you've got a lovable comedy that all but certified grumps will savor.
Sylvia runs through June 28 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $24- $42. newvillagearts.org
Nobody's talkin' in the San Diego Rep's world-premiere production of Everybody's Talkin': The Music of Harry Nilsson. The two-act show, conceived by Steve Gunderson and Javier Velasco, consists entirely of Gregory Jbara, Alice Ripley and Kurt Norby singing more than 50 Nilsson tunes, including a couple (like "Everybody's Talkin'") that he didn't write but turned into hits. The question beckons: Why Harry Nilsson? A pop cult figure, perhaps, and a prolific songwriter, no doubt. But the source of two hours of "theater"?
The concept would be more appealing were it played as sheer nostalgia, staged in a '70s setting with the singers in tie-dye duds, "smoking" doobies and taking all these songs a helluva lot less seriously. Everybody's Talkin': The Music Of Harry Nilsson runs through June 21 on the San Diego Repertory Theatre's Lyceum Stage, downtown. $36-$75. sdrep.org
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Black Kat's Bill of Rights: A Living Newspaper: A mix of theater and sketch comedy, this play is about the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution. Presented by Black Kat Theatre Company, it opens June 11 at Desi's Bar & Grill in Point Loma. blackkattheatre.com
West Side Story: You know the deal. Bernstein and Sondheim like Romeo & Juliet so much they made a lavish Broadway musical out if it. It opens June 12 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Home: A staged reading of Samm-Art Williams' comedy about a young orphan who's content to be a farmer until his sweetheart decides to go to college. Presented by San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre and Cultural Noire Performing Arts Company, it happens June 15 at the Lyceum Space at San Diego Repertory Theatre in Downtown. sdartstix.com
Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon: Two one-act comedies that both take place in '70s Texas. Presented by Different Stages, it runs through June 13 at The Hall at Swedenborg Church in Hillcrest. differentstages.biz
Arms and the Man: Often considered George Bernard Shaw's most romantic comedy, this play centers on a young Bulgarian woman who gets caught up in a love triangle during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885. Through June 14 at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Motown the Musical: The hit musical that tells the true story of music mogul Berry Gordy, who founded the famous Detroit label that launched the careers of Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and dozens more. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through June 14 at San Diego Civic Theatre. broadwaysd.com
The Whale: The San Diego premiere of the Off-Broadway hit about a 600-pound recluse desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter before he eats himself to death. Through June 14 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.com
Wrenegades: An Ecological Adventure: A new production about a depressed man struggling to save an endangered bird told through music, puppetry and dance. Presented by Circle Circle dot dot, it runs through June 19 at La Jolla Playhouse. circle2dot2.com
Everybody's Talkin': The Music of Harry Nilsson: A world premiere musical about the highly influential, but still relatively obscure singer-songwriter. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through June 21 at the Lyceum Stage in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
Mulatto: Langston Hughes' first full-length play tells the story of a southern plantation owner who refuses to recognize his bi-racial son as his own. Through June 21 at Community Actor's Theatre in Rolando. communityactorstheatre.com
A New Brain: A musical about a young composer rushing to create his masterpiece after learning he has a fatal brain disease. It runs through June 21 at Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
Rich Girl: A new play about a wealthy mother and daughter and the gentleman caller who comes between them. Based on the novel, Washington Square, by Henry James, it runs through June 21 at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
All Shook Up: A family-friendly musical comedy set in the 50s about a stranger trying to expose a small town to rock n' roll. Music by, well, who else? Through June 27 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Betrayal: The balance of power shifts throughout Harold Pinter's classic play of a love triangle gone awry. Through June 28 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Becky Shaw: The Pulitzer Prize-nominated "anti-romantic dramedy" about the dark side of blind dates. Written by House of Cards writer and producer Gina Gionfriddo, it runs through June 28 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Sylvia: A comedic romp about a couple of empty-nesters who adopt a dog only to find that their new pet causes them to confront underlying issues in their relationship. It runs through June 28 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill: Broadway vet Audra McDonald stars as Billie Holiday in this musical play based on one of the legendary singer's last performances. Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs through July 4 at the URBN CNTR 4THE ARTS in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Come From Away: The world premiere of the rock-inspired musical about 38 passenger planes that had to detour to Newfoundland following the events of 9/11. Directed by Christopher Ashley, it runs through July 5 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org