Tennessee Williams knew three or four things about building characters, and he looked only to himself for the keys to that success. At least to some degree, his people are patterned after his own behaviors and gloomy worldview, with Blanche DuBois among the most illustrative. The central figure in the great A Streetcar Named Desire tears apart her own family amid the delusions that color her life; in the end, she's involuntarily carted off to a rest home for her trouble. Ion Theatre Company has mounted a fair turn of the story, with one uncharacteristic exception: Monique Gaffney's performance as Blanche is decidedly substandard, smacking of deep-seated but measured suspicions in place of Blanche's angst-riddled obsolescence. Director Claudio Raygoza gets a good performance from Sara Beth Morgan as Stella Kowalski, and his and Nick Moodey's set design is the best in the history of the American theater. But it's Blanche who's supposed to carry the piece—and amid Gaffney's wholesale misinterpretation, a lot of the show falters accordingly. Streetcar runs through Aug. 2 at The Lab, Academy for the Performing Arts in Mission Valley. www.iontheatre.com. $22.50-$25.50.—Martin Jones Westlin
Boomers: This piece showcases the music and news events that defined a generation. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it opens July 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $23-$56. www.lambsplayers.org.
Phantom of the Opera: A spectral figure haunts the opera house where Christina sings, holding her captive and training her for the performance of her life. Opens in previews July 16 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. $25-$125. www.broadwaysd.com.
The Pleasure of His Company: The father of a bride-to-be disrupts a household as he tries to show up her fiancé and win back his ex-wife. Now in previews, it opens July 17 at The Old Globe Theatre mainstage in Balboa Park. $54-$56. www.oldglobe.org.
Timon of Athens: Everybody wants to take advantage of Timon, an ancient Greek aristocrat whose only major fault is his generosity. Opens July 20 at Compass Theatre (formerly 6th@Penn Theatre) in Hillcrest. $12-$18. www.compasstheatre.com.
Helen: This translation of Euripides' Helen of Troy tells the story of the world's most beautiful woman, who yearns to be reunited with her husband after the Trojan War. Produced by The Theatre, Inc., it runs through Aug. 3 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. $22-$25. www.thetheatreinc.com.
* Madagascar: Three people confront their demons after a loved one goes missing. Through Aug. 3 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $28-$35. www.northcoast.org.
Romeo and Juliet: Two crazy kids from Italy fall in love, only to die amid a pointless family feud. Through Sept. 26 at The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $56-$64. www.oldglobe.org.
* The Hit: Susan and Steve run a San Francisco antiques shop, where a case of mistaken identity sets off an intriguing string of events. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through July 20 at the Paul and Ione Harter Stage in Coronado. $20-$56. www.lambsplayers.org.
The Merry Wives of Windsor: John Falstaff uses his celebrity to hit on two married women. Through Sept. 28 at The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. $56-$64. www.oldglobe.org.
* tick... tick... BOOM!: Jonathan is working on a musical, and he'd better finish it before it's too late. Produced by Stone Soup Theatre, it runs through Aug. 17 at Tenth Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $20-$25. www.stonesouptheatre.net.
* Yank!: This musical is the inside story of how some servicemen grew a lot closer during World War II. Through Aug. 17 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights. $20-$35. 619-220-0097 or www.diversionary.org. See our review on this page.Dinner theaterChalk it Up to Murder: HIT Productions features a cavalcade of new clues for a terrible crime. Fireside Steakhouse, 439 W. Washington Blvd. in Escondido. $16-$29.50. 619-561-8673. Joey & Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding: The fortunes and foibles at the heart of an Italian wedding are laid on the table. Holiday Inn on the Bay, 1355 N. Harbor Drive. $49.50. 800-944-5639.Where There's a Will... There's a Wake: Gangland figure Sonny Shoehorn is heir to the family fortune unless his siblings have their way. Presented by Mystery Cafe Dinner Theater at Imperial House Restaurant, 505 Kalmia St. in Bankers Hill. 619-544-1600.