Rapture, Blister Burn, the closing show of San Diego Rep's 40th season, is a schizophrenic marathon of a play (written by Gina Gionfriddo) that zigzags between feminist manifesto and soap opera of the identity crisis ilk. Its core figure, Catherine (Paige Lindsey White), is a committed academic and a knockout regular on the lecture and book circuits. But hers is a life without personal attachments, save her elderly (and of course, spunky) mother (Susan Denaker) who's recovering after a heart attack. When Catherine reunites with her mommyitis-afflicted ex-college roomie Gwen (Sandy Campbell), the comparing of lives begins, as does an inexplicable contest between the two women to claim Gwen's schlubby hubby, Don (Shawn Law). Also on the scene is smack-talking, wise-beyond-her years Avery (Jennifer Paredes), who joins Gwen in Catherine's pedantic feminist theory class.
Act One tends toward the preachy, saving most of the emotional sturm und drang for Act Two. While the cast is a capable one—Campbell, whose character is the most believable, stands out—Gionfriddo's script is excessive, and the integrity of the Catherine protagonist gets sold out.
Rapture, Blister Burn runs through May 15 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, downtown. $33-$66. sdrep.org
Happened to overhear some guy during intermission of Lamb's Players Theatre's world-premiere Dinner with Marlene, a new play by local Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey: "I thought this was going to be more about Marlene Dietrich," he said, sounding confused. Dinner with Marlene is about Marlene Dietrich, but it's not a sexy Hollywood tell-all. It's playwright Harvey's stage realization of a story told to her by her father, who one night in October 1938 in Paris sat down to dinner with a group that included Dietrich, socialite Barbara Hutton and master violinist Fritz Kreisler. The undercurrent of the dinner chat turns intensely political, and the principled and heroic Dietrich (played vividly by Deborah Gilmour Smyth) emerges. It can be numbing watching eight people sitting at a table for two hours, but the last half-hour is your reward for doing so.
Dinner with Marlene runs through May 29 at Lambís Players Theatre in Coronado. $24-$72; lambsplayers.org
The Boy Who Danced on Air: A new musical drama about the Afghani cultural practice of bacha bazi, where older men engage and often buy boys as young as nine-years-old to train them and “keep” them. It opens May 5 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org
Bedside Manners: A lighthearted British farce about a regular guy who agrees to look after his sister’s seedy country hotel. It opens May 6 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Escondido. powpac.org
Hollywood: Set in the ‘20s, this world premiere noir thriller is based on the true story of the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor. Written by Joe DiPietro, it opens May 10 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Camp David: This new play centers on the 1978 Middle East peace talks between Israel and Egypt and of which the legacy is still felt today. Written by Pulitzer-winner Lawrence Wright, it opens May 13 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
A Civil War Story: There is Always Hope: Follow the lives of two very different people during the Civil War, one a Union soldier and the other a runaway slave. Presented by Luminary Arts, it happens May 10 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. artcenter.org
Catch Me If You Can: The musical version of the film about a jet-setting conman and the FBU agent hot on his tail. Presented by Coronado School of the Arts, it runs through May 7 at the Coronado Performing Arts Center. cosasandiego.com
Constellations: Nick Payne’s acclaimed play about a chance encounter between a man and a woman at a party and all the varying directions events can play out from there. Directed by Richard Seer, it runs through May 8 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
A Little Night Music: The Stephen Sondheim musical centers on an enchanting actress who invites her male admirers, as well as their jealous wives, for a weekend in the country. It runs through May 8 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Way Downriver: Two very different men must work together to survive a terrible flood along the Mississippi River. Adapted by Edward Morgan from William Faulkner’s short story, Old Man, it runs through May 8 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Jesus Hates Me: The San Diego premiere of Wayne Lemon’s dramedy about a down-on-his-luck ex football player who begins to question his existence after visiting a Christian-themed miniature golf course. Presented by ion Theatre, it runs through May 14 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Wagner New Play Festival: The annual festival features original full-length and one-act plays written, directed and performed by UCSD graduate students. Through May 14 at the UCSD theaters in La Jolla. theatre.ucsd.edu
Big River: Roger Miller’s Tony Award-winning adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It runs through May 15 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Rapture, Blister, Burn: When successful Catherine returns home to take care of her ailing mother, she finds herself clashing with her childhood friend whose life took a more domestic path. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through May 15 at the Lyceum Space in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
Dinner with Marlene: This world premiere dramedy centers on an actual dinner party that took place in 1938 Paris with movie star Marlene Dietrich and her famous friends. Written by local playwright Anne-Charlotte Harvey, it runs through May 29 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Evita: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lavish musical about Eva Peron’s rise from the slums of Argentina to the country’s first lady. Directed by Jessica Brandon, it runs through June 4 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info