At 17, Chela Solis looked easily twice her age. Six years later, she had the face of a longretired prizefighter, complete with the vestiges of a nose broken more than once. Such was the state of her marriage to a lunatic her daughter Dulce Maria Solis aptly calls “Finito” (he once nearly kicked the pregnant Chela to death while forcing her to swallow prescription meds). But Chela, a black comedy written and acted by the younger Solis, takes on as happy an ending as one can expect; a torturous existence propels Mom out of the marriage and on to the reclamation of her life and her sexual identity.
This is an unvarnished look at one Mexico native's struggle to reinvent herself against crushing odds—and the neat thing about it is that Chela isn't some big name whose life is subject to the pushes and pulls of the public mind. Her anonymity is our anonymity, and that trait translates to a true cross-cultural experience and a pretty darn nice bit of theater.
Young Solis, who's been touring the show since 2004 (it premiered at San Diego's Actors Alliance Festival, where it snagged the Best Performance award), might be a little too used to it in spots—rather than seal the current scene (there are 18) with a prolonged look or stance, she's already moving into the next one.
But she's got some good physicality and secondary characters to color the Todd Blakesley-directed action, including a self-righteous East Indian shrink who's got meds on her agenda and her head up her ass.
This isn't a play so much as a public service about domestic violence.
Chela, part of Ion Theatre Company's Off-the-Radar series, runs June 12 and 19 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn, 3704 Sixth Ave. in Hillcrest. $12-$15. iontheatre.com
Our Town: George Gibbs and Emily Webb's everyday lives reveal humanity's deeper aspects in early 20th-century New England. Produced by Cygnet Theatre Company, it opens in previews June 9 at The Old Town Theatre. $34-$49. cygnettheatre.com
Amadeus: Composer Antonio Salieri throws up a series of roadblocks to sidetrack the career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his supposed archrival. Opens in previews June 12 at The Old Globe Theatre's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
The Tempest: Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, conjures up a storm to help restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. Now in previews, it opens June 19 at The Old Globe Theatre's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
Much Ado about Nothing: While Beatrice and Benedick hide their infatuation beneath witty barbs, young love blossoms as Hero and Claudio race to the altar, with the wicked Don John conspiring to break up the wedding. Now in previews, it opens June 29 at The Old Globe Theatre's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
A Chorus Line: A chorus of New Yorkers have different ambitions but one goal in mind—to land a job in a Broadway show. Produced by San Diego Musical Theatre, it runs through June 12 at The Lyceum Theatre, Downtown. $30-$60. sandiegomusicaltheatre.com
A Dram of Drummhicit: An American entrepreneur has found the perfect Scottish island on which to build his new golf course—but as secrets are unearthed, the true nature of the island wreaks havoc. Produced by La Jolla Playhouse, it runs through June 12 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre at UCSD. $36-$59. lajollaplayhouse.org
H August: Osage County: The obsolescent Violet Weston is the main culprit as her faded family chokes on its secrets, lies and deception. Through June 12 at The Old Globe Theatre mainstage in Balboa Park. $29- $67. oldglobe.org
Foggerty's Fairy: A man gets a chance to obliterate any misdeed in his life he chooses, only to find himself dredging up more bad judgment. Produced by Talent to aMuse, it runs through June 18 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. $18. talenttoamuse.com
Rounding Third: Coaches Don and Michael have very different views on their Little League team—Donald wants the kids to win, while Michael wants them to enjoy the game. Produced by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through June 25 at the Legler- Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. $10-$22. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Swingtime Canteen: This show looks at the films and personalities that defined the American consciousness during World War II. Through June 25 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. $10-$20. onstageplayhouse.org
Humble Boy: Felix Humble confronts his mental and emotional deficiencies as he tries to fulfill his familial and professional responsibilities. Through June 26 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. $7-$15. patioplayhouse.com
My Name Is Asher Lev: A young Hasidic Jewish artist is torn between following his heart and following his faith. Through June 26 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Swimming in the Shallows: Barb learns that Thai monks own only eight things—and she wonders if that's all she wants, even as her husband lavishes her with new clothes. Produced by InnerMission Productions, it runs through June 26 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $15-$20. innermissionproductions.org
Ten Cent Night: Country music legend Hewitt Finley just put a bullet in his brain—now it's up to his family to soldier on. Produced by MOXIE Theatre, it runs through June 26 at The Rolando Theatre in the College Area. $22-$40. moxietheatre.com
The Music Man: Conman Harold Hill comes to River City with a scam involving a boys marching band, but things don't go according to plan. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through July 24 at the Ione and Paul Harter Stage in Coronado. $22-$58. lambsplayers.org
* miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 4 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org