The agony of loss pervades Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray), the story of a fractured Brooklyn family that loses an 18-year-old son to gang violence. It’s at its most raw and piercing, however, when grandmother Lena (Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson) cradles the murdered Tray’s souvenir football in her arms and sinks onto his bed in tears. Though she opens the one-act drama in a monologue assuring us that the tale about to be told is not about her, the Lena character is the prism through which we absorb brownsville song’s heartache and its subtextual lessons about reconciliation and survival. The Moxie Theatre production features the estimable Thompson as Lena, and the intuitive Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, who directed brownsville song as a staged reading in last year’s New Voices Festival at the Old Globe, is at the helm once again.
Lee’s play weathers slow spots (most in the flashbacks with Tray and his stepmother), though the interchanging depictions of past and present don’t consistently allow the impact of a scene to sink in. But Cortez L. Johnson is a Tray to root for (and grieve for), and the affections between him, his grandmother and little sister (Zoe Sonnenberg) make knowing his fate all the more chilling.
brownsville song (b-side for tray) runs through Feb. 28 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $30; moxietheatre.com
You’d be hard pressed to keep a straight face during the Old Globe’s The Metromaniacs, David Ives’ sumptuous farce based on Alexis Piron’s 18th-century La Metromanie. Unless you’re averse to verse. Like Ives’ The School for Lies, produced two years ago at the North Coast Rep, The Metromaniacs rides the rocky, raucous waves of rhyming couplets. If you can relax, enjoy and stop yourself from waiting for the completion of a rhyme, you’ll likely bond with this silly tale of poetry lovers (the socalled metromaniacs), mistaken identity and unfettered infatuation. Director Michael Kahn keeps the goings-on in high gear with high style. Among the engaging cast, Amelia Pedlow stands out as a pampered daughter and sucker for poetry who can also pucker her lips like her life depended on it.
The Metromaniacs runs through March 6 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up; oldglobe.org
Now or Later: The West Coast premiere of Christopher Shinn’s provocative play about a presidential election that turns all too personal when controversial photos surface of the Democratic candidate’s son. It opens in previews Feb. 11 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Edward Albee’s classic drama about two married couples who meet for drinks and leave forever changed. Presented by the Intrepid Theatre Company, it opens Feb. 11 at the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp. intrepidtheatre.org
Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight: The San Diego premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s fascinating play about the brilliant Enlightenment physicist and mathematician who never got her due because of her sex. It opens Feb. 13 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
The Last Match: As the drama of a tennis match between a Russian and an American plays out on the court, the behind-the-scenes drama is just as fast-paced. Written by Anna Zeigler, it opens Feb. 13 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Movers + Shakers: A new musical play that explores virtual mating habits via the story of a congressman who’s having to do damage control over a leaked dick pic. Conceived by Stein | Holum Projects, it opens for five performances Feb. 13 at the UCSD Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre in La Jolla. theatre.ucsd.edu
Coyote in a Fence: Based on a true story, Bruce Graham’s play about two very different death row inmates challenges audiences to reconsider guilt and innocence. It runs through Feb. 6 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
The Realish Housewives of San Diego: A parody of the self-absorbed ladies of the Bravo network series of shows, but with a local spin. Developed by a creative team out of The Second City improv troupe, it runs through Feb. 7 at the Balboa Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush: This world premiere play sees the famous British sleuth traveling to Alaska in an attempt to prove a client’s innocence. Written by Joseph Vass, it runs through Feb. 14 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Nerd: Larry Shue’s comedy about a geeky architect whose life gets a little more exciting when an old comrade shows up at his door. Directed by Robert Smyth, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
When the Rain Stops Falling: This multi-generational drama centers on Gabriel York, who fears that a fish falling from the sky will bring the end of the world. Presented by Cygnet Theatre Company, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Outside Mullingar: Written by award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, this acclaimed romcom set in rural Ireland tells the story of two 40-something neighbors falling in love despite their families feuding. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Feb. 14 at the Lyceum Space in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
The Last Five Years: This romantic musical tells the story of a writer and an actress by working backward through their entire relationship through song. Written by Jason Robert Brown, it runs through Feb. 21 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Poway. powpac.org
Guards at the Taj: A new black comedy about two Taj Mahal guards whose faith is tested after a ghoulish encounter. Written by Rajiv Joseph, it runs through Feb. 28 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Tell Me on a Sunday: Actress Bets Malone stars in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about a young Brit looking for love in the U.S. Directed by James Vasquez, it runs through Feb. 28 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.biz