Rather than freshen or fortify the perpetually staged Macbeth, the Old Globe’s new production that kicks off its 2016 Summer Shakespeare Festival calls too much attention to its creative nuances. The World War I-era military uniforms may strike a metaphorical chord with the play’s treatises on power and war, but their presence thoroughly expunges any reminder that we are in Scotland. The hospital ward beds on wheels are easy to roll on and off stage, but Macbeth (Jonathan Cake) and his queen (Marsha Stephanie Blake) appear strange making love on one of them. The stark ward, occupied by mental patients rather than the traditional “weird sisters,” genuinely disturbs, even though the sisters upstage Cake’s aristocratic, nearly Hugh Grant-ish Macbeth.
Director Brian Kulick spares none of the “Scottish Play’s” gruesomeness or brooding air, and merits cheers for his adventurism and appreciation of the tale’s lighter moments. But if not exactly resulting in toil and trouble, there’s awkwardness in the pairing of Cake and Blake, whose height disparity is distracting, and Blake lacks the stage presence we expect of Lady M., a cunning manipulator and the tragedy’s driving force. Conversely, Clifton Duncan, who starred in the Globe’s memorable Scottsboro Boys in 2012, is stellar as Macduff. Duncan is both cerebral and understated.
Macbeth runs through July 24 on the Old Globe Theatre’s Lowell Davies Festival stage. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Moonlight Stage Company has opened its 36th summer season with a likable production of Sister Act, the Catholic-joke-filled Broadway musical based on the popular Whoopi Goldberg flick from 1992. This show is really all about Daebreon Poiema, a singing, dancing, sassing force of nature as Deloris Van Cartier, the nightclub singer hiding from a vengeful gangster boyfriend in a staid convent of nuns. Poiema so dominates Sister Act that scenes without her frankly aren’t as exciting, in spite of a comical, sympathetic turn by Cornelius Jones, Jr. as Eddie (or “Sweaty Eddie,” as Deloris calls him), the cop who’s fallen for her. Still, Moonlight’s summer crowds eat up spectacles like cloistered sisters breaking the solemn habit to go full-on Vegas.
Sister Act runs through July 2 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $23- $55. moonlightstage.com
Sense & Sensibility: The West Coast premiere of the musical based on the Jane Austen novel about the perseverant Dashwood sisters. Adapted by Paul Gordon, it opens July 6 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Lydia: The local premiere of the modern tragedy about an undocumented woman who comes to care for a disabled girl in 1970s El Paso. Presented by ion theatre, it runs through July 2 at the BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.
Sister Act: The musical based on the film about a singer who witnesses a crime and has to hide out in a convent. Directed by John Vaughan, it runs through July 2 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.
American Idiot: The rock opera musical about three working-class friends trying to chase their dreams features music from the classic Green Day album of the same name. Directed by Matt Fitzgerald, it runs through July 9 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Woody Guthrie’s American Song: An ensemble musical based on the life of the revered American folk singer and songwriter behind classics like “This Land is Your Land” and “Bound for Glory.” Presented by Intrepid Theatre Company, it runs through July 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre in Downtown. intrepidtheatre.org
The Last Tiger in Haiti: The world premiere drama centers on a group of Haitian children during kanaval, and blends folklore and modern realities. Written by Jeff Augustin, it runs through July 24 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Macbeth: A young prince murders and schemes his way to the throne of Scotland in Shakespeare’s bloody classic. Part of the Summer Shakespeare Festival, it runs through July 24 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
American Rhythm: An original musical production that uses the most memorable songs of the last 100 years. Conceived by Robert Smyth, it runs through Aug. 7 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org