In D.H. Lawrence's eloquent Odour of Chrysanthemums, he referred to life as his protagonist's "immediate master" and death her "ultimate master." It is so for all of us. Playwright Jane Anderson's The Quality of Life addresses life and death as well in a contemplative and gripping production from Intrepid Theatre Co. directed by Christy Yael-Cox.
Bill and Dinah (Tom Stephenson and Maggie Carney) are a reserved, conservative couple from the Midwest grieving the loss of their beloved daughter to a savage murderer. Still, at brave Maggie's urging, they travel west on a mission of comfort to visit her free-spirit cousin Jeanette (DeAnna Driscoll) and her husband Neil (Jeffrey Jones), who live in a portable tent because a fire destroyed their home. Worse, Neil is dying of cancer and, to Maggie's and (mostly) Bill's shock, has decided to end his life on his own terms. Jeanette has a reveal of her own that deeply pains Dinah and shakes the religious and self-righteous Bill to the core. Yet, The Quality of Life dwells less in moral polemics and more in exploring love and commitment in the here and now, a proposition so terribly difficult when something precious is gone—or is about to be. It's a tender piece about sacrifice, with affecting performances, especially from Jones and Carney. Even its "little" moments, as when Bill discovers the remains of their friends' family pet lost in the fire, can be devastating.
The Quality of Life runs through Aug. 2 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre. $25-$40. intrepidtheatre.org
Just a few months after San Diego Musical Theatre staged the perennial Broadway fave about the Jets and the Sharks and Tony and Maria, Lamb's Players Theatre is presenting its own West Side Story, and it's still irresistible. Even if Lamb's Players' Tony (Kevin Hafso-Koppman) seems too mild for a gang member—perhaps he's too lovestruck?—this West Side Story contains all the requisite ingredients: top-shelf choreography (by Colleen Kollar Smith); exciting fight scenes (choreographed by Jordan Miller), a crowd-wowing Anita (Michele Alves) and, of course, Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, which together ensure that this is a show with perpetual staying power.
West Side Story runs through July 26 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $32-$82. lambsplayers.org
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Many Mansions: A play by Brooke McEldowney about a young atheist in New York finding religion in the least likely of places. Presented by Snark Ascending Productions, it opens July 9 for five performances at the Blackbox Stage at Ion Theatre in Hillcrest. manymansions.brownpapertickets.com
All in the Timing: This collection of four one-act comedies is arguably playwright David Ives' most famous work. It opens July 10 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Sometimes it Snows in Atlanta: The West Coast premiere of Laurinda D. Brown's drama about three African-American couples addressing taboo topics within the LGBT community. Presented by Bent Not Broken Inspired, it happens on July 10 and 11 at Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
The Music Man: The classic musical about a con-man who charms the townsfolk of River City into starting up a kids' marching band so he can steal their money. Then things get complicated. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it opens July 15 at the AVO Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Side By Side By Sondheim: A collection of some of musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim's greatest hits. Includes songs from Gypsy, West Side Story, Follies and more. It opens in previews July 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org