The long-winded title of Lauren Gunderson’s Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight doesn’t tell you everything about this cerebral drama set in 18th century France. For instance, who was Emilie, portrayed by Jo Anne Glover in New Village Arts Theatre’s production? The chalkboard behind her onstage, the one divided into columns headed “Love” and “Philosophy,” suggests an answer: This unsung historical figure was part lover of love, part mathematical genius.
In Gunderson’s play, directed by Kristianne Kurner at NVA, Emilie is back from the dead and presiding over a dramatized (by a cast of five, including the exceptional Glover) flashback of her extraordinary life.
It’s a life of romance, prodigious intellect and protofeminist tenacity. Possibly the cup is too full here. Emilie’s monologues seem better suited to a one-woman show. The influential persons in her past, including an effete Voltaire (Skyler Sullivan), are rather transparent. It turns out Emilie’s life needs no defense, just more publicity. Oh, and math phobes, relax. There’s no quiz after the final curtain.
Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight runs through March 6 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $22-$36. newvillagearts.org
Diversionary Theatre’s production of Christopher Shinn’s Now or Later runs only 70 minutes, but it’s a packed 70 minutes. In one relatively short act, director Matt Morrow and a cast of six who wave rhetorical swords at: suppression of free speech, racial intolerance, intolerance of same-sex marriage, power-mad political campaign protocol and parents who don’t get what their kids have to say. The righteous speeches Shinn gives his main character, John (J. Tyler Jones), a college student whose dressing up as Muhammad pisses off his President-elect papa (Eddie Yaroch), are delivered with the full-throated fervor of a cable-news split screen. Yet we are never completely sure whether Ivy League John is standing on political principle, crying out for understanding from his hypocrite father or suffering the pangs of a breakup with the never-seen Robbie. Before you’ve made up your mind, show’s over.
Now or Later runs through March 13 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $15-$40. diversionary.org
Blithe Spirit: Noel Coward’s comedy deals with a writer having to deal with two wives when the first one returns from the after-life to haunt him. It opens March 4 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
The Drowsy Chaperone: This classic musical comedy set in the ’20s is actually a parody of musical comedies. Yeah, that’s pretty meta, but it won a bunch of Tonys. It opens March 4 at SDSU’s Don Powell Theatre in the College Area. ttf.sdsu.edu
The Miracle Worker: William Gibson’s classic story of Helen Keller and her committed teacher Anne Sullivan. It opens in previews March 4 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Alice Chan: This kid-friendly comedy tells the story of a nerdy fifth grader who is cast as the lead of the school play over the popular girl. Directed by Law & Order: SVU actor BD Wong, it opens for four performances on March 5 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Altar Boyz: A musical parody about a fictional Christian boy band on the last night of their tour. Written by Kevin Del Aguila, it opens for four performances on March 9 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Book of Mormon: In the acclaimed musical, two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda to convert the locals, who are not the slightest bit interested in being converted. Written by the creators of South Park, it runs through March 6 at the Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com
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 runs through March 6 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
The Metromaniacs: This new David Ives comedy centers on an 18th Century Parisian poet who falls in love with a famous poetess, not realizing that she is actually a he. Naturally, hilarity ensues. Presented in association with Shakespeare Theatre Company, it runs through March 6 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Sugar: Based on the screenplay of Some Like it Hot, this musical is about two unemployed musicians who disguise themselves as women in order to hide from the Chicago mob. Adapted by Peter Stone, it runs through March 6 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Annie Warbucks: Everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan returns in this sequel to the beloved musical. Presented by JHCompany Youth Theatre, it runs though March 13 at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre in La Jolla. jcompanysd.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 runs through March 13 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.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 runs through March 13 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 runs through March 13 at the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp. intrepidtheatre.org
Now You See It: Georges Feydeau’s comical farce includes a philandering husband, hypnotism and scandalous discoveries galore. Directed by Bruce Turk, it runs through March 20 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
WaistWatchers The Musical: A musical parody about four women obsessing over diet, work out regimens, plastic surgery and sex in their search for self-love. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through March 27 at the Lyceum Space Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org