Before you let holiday shopping get the better of you, consider catching Sarah Ruhl’s The Oldest Boy, which winds up its run at the San Diego Repertory Theatre on Dec. 6. A heady, expressive performance by Amanda Sitton, beautiful sets by Sean Fanning and haunting Tibetan music arranged by Michael Roth are just three of the reasons to bond with this enlightened story. It’s about parents confronting the heart-rending decision of whether to let their 3-year-old son, evidently the reincarnation of a lama (or teacher), grow up without them on the other side of the world in a monastery. Sitton portrays the boy’s mother and does so with such sensitivity that you’ll feel you are in her shoes.
Ruhl’s play has its draggy places, such as the Act One meet-cute flashback about the mother and the boy’s father (Napoleon Tavale). But what Ruhl (The Vibrator Play, The Clean House) imparts about academia, teachers and those who make the greatest sacrifices is smart and important. The sheer peace of the Buddhist way pervades all as Ruhl’s narrative melds with the production’s exquisite music and dance.
The Oldest Boy runs through Dec. 6 on the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Stage, downtown. $33-$66. sdrep.org
If Jeff Bridges’ antihero from The Big Lebowski were to have a son, KJ from Annie Baker’s play The Aliens would do nicely. Now, Lebowski was a good-hearted stoner, while KJ is a good-hearted slacker (though he does like to drink tea laced with psilocybin mushrooms). But they’ve got enough in common that when you experience KJ (Brian Butler) hanging out behind a coffeehouse with his pal, Jasper (Reed Willard), you may have a stoner-slacker flashback.
This is not to minimize Baker’s play, running through Dec. 12 at ion theatre, which is strangely mesmerizing despite the fact that it mostly consists of KJ and Jasper and the teenager (Tyler Oakley) they befriend sitting around near a dumpster, shooting the you know what. But Baker’s script possesses a sneaky intelligence to it, and there’s a sweetness to the relationship between KJ and teenager Evon that’s hard to resist. There are no aliens, by the way, in the extraterrestrial sense. That’s the name (one of them) of KJ and Jasper’s on-and-off band.
The Aliens runs through Dec. 12 at ion theatre’s BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $9-$40. iontheatre.com
Lamb’s Festival of Christmas: The annual musical theater performance features classic songs and is set in Little Italy in the late ’40s. It opens Dec. 2 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
2015 in Review: A Living Newspaper: A sketch comedy theatre review of all the notable and pop culture tidbits of the year. Presented by Black Kat Theatre, it opens for six performances on Dec. 3 at Desi’s Bar & Grill in Point Loma. blackkattheatre.com
The 1940s Radio Hour: A family-friendly musical about a quaint New York radio station that’s about to air its last broadcast of holiday music. It opens Dec. 5 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Greetings!: A cast reading of the holiday-themed Tom Dudzick comedy about a Catholic family trying to keep it together after they realize their son’s new girlfriend is a Jewish atheist. Presented by the Carlsbad Playreaders, it happens on Dec. 7 at the Schulman Auditorium in the Carlsbad City Library. carlsbadplayreaders.org
This Wonderful Life: James Leaming stars in a one-man stage adaptation of the classic holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Written by Steve Murray, it opens Dec. 8 at the North Coast Repe