"Percussive" is the best word for The Brothers Size. Before the one-act play by Tarell Alvin McCraney even begins, you're immersed in the feverish drumming of onstage musician Jonathan Melville Pratt, who, accompanied by louder, recorded beats, fills The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre with the singular rhythm of the South. Once the story of two brothers in the Louisiana bayou country kicks in, the vibrations emanate from three young actors in top form: Joshua Elijah Reese and Okieriete Onaodowan as siblings Ogun and Oshoosi Size, respectively, and Antwayn Hopper as the mysterious Elegba. They appear, reappear and square off two at a time inside a circle of white chalk. Oshoosi, just out of prison, wants to forget his past and change his course while in the grip of dangerous impulse and the influence of Elegba. Ogun, who fixes cars, wants to fix his brother but has no idea how.
The Brothers Size, directed by Tea Alagic, is ultimately about love, but it's difficult to make an emotional connection with Ogun and Oshoosi. It's possible that the parameters—actors announce their arrivals and departures, and they improvise (though inventively) on a stage without props— remind us that, as in a Brechtian world, we are watching a play and, as such, we're not completely given over to these characters.
The Brothers Size runs through Feb. 24 at The Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
The journey to redemption is a lengthy one in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, the first of his 10-play "Pittsburgh Cycle." To boot, Cygnet Theatre's staging of Gem, directed by Victor Mack, is achingly, deliberately paced. To revel in Wilson's eloquent language and insight into the African-American experience requires three hours of rapt attention, and this production does lag. By the time young Citizen Barlow (Laurence Brown) embarks upon his magical sojourn to the City of Bones (the high point of the play, and of this staging, by far), we're poised to share his catharsis, but there is still so much more to unravel.
Antonio "TJ" Johnson makes a powerful stand as the dauntless former slave Solly Two Kings. His absences from the drama are sorely felt.
Gem of the Ocean runs through Feb. 24 at the Old Town Theatre. $29-$54. cygnettheatre.com
People Say You Can't Live Without Love I Think Oxygen is More Important: A musical revue about love. Opens Feb. 8 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Punk Rock: This is the West Coast premiere of a drama about seven affluent British prep-school teens getting ready for final exams. It doesn't end well. Opens Feb. 9 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.
Titus Andronicus: A Roman general returns victorious from war, only to be embroiled in a mess of romantic entanglements, revenge and many severed body parts in Shakespeare's seriously violent and once-controversial tragedy. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, it opens Feb. 6 at the university's Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre.
Frederick Douglass Now: Roger Guenveur Smith's one-man show uses noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as a vehicle to explore the African-American historical experience. Through Feb. 6 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Plays by Young Writers: A series of scripts by playwrights younger than 19 performed over two weekends—each performance consisting of two full productions and one staged reading. Runs through Feb. 9 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
A Feminine Ending: An oboist struggles to juggle her own artistic career and the demands of her boyfriend, a pop star on the rise. Through Feb. 10 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Clybourne Park: In this award-winning, sort-of sequel to A Raisin in the Sun, a suburban Chicago home is the setting for tense race relations in 1959 (Act 1) and 2009 (Act. 2), with the same actors playing different characters in each act. Through Feb. 10 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Charley's Aunt: It's the late-1800s, and two college men want to get with a couple of young lasses. They plan a get-together to coincide with a visit from a rich aunt from Brazil. But, as usual with this sort of farce, things go haywire. Through Feb. 16 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Hamlet: The son of a king is fit to be tied in the wake of his dad's death and his uncle's rise to power. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through Feb. 17 at San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Center in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
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 Feb. 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Pygmalion: You know My Fair Lady. Well, this is the 1912 George Bernard Shaw play on which that beloved musical was based—the story of professor Henry Higgins and Cockney student Eliza Doolittle. Through Feb. 17 at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The Brothers Size: A young man is recently out of prison and living with his car-mechanic brother when an acquaintance from the lockup shows up and causes some turmoil. Through Feb. 24 at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Gem of the Ocean: In August Wilson's play, a 285-year-old matriarch and former slave named Aunt Ester leads a man down a path to self-discovery in 1904 Pittsburgh. Through Feb. 24 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Birds of a Feather: Human actors play two gay penguins who raise a chick in the Central Park Zoo and an opposite-sex couple of hawks who do the same on a ledge of a swanky Manhattan high-rise. Yep, based on true events. Through March 3 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
The Bluest Eye: This adaptation of Toni Morrison's 1970 focuses on an 11-year-old girl in 1940s Ohio who's been led to believe that her dark skin makes her ugly. Jointly presented by Moxie Theatre and Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through March 3 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com, moolelo.net
DNA New Work Series: La Jolla Playhouse is providing rehearsal space and resources to new playwrights developing their scripts, the results of which will be presented in staged readings or workshopped productions through March 3. Check lajollaplayhouse.org for the schedule of performances.
Pete 'n Keely: It's the late-1960s, and a successful singing duo who haven't spoken in five years have decided to reunite for a live TV special. Through March 3 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Ruthless! The Musical: In this all-female satire, an 8-year-old wannabe star murders the girl who got the lead in the school play. Then some really crazy shit happens. Through March 3 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Trip to Bountiful: In spite of the objections of her son and daughter-in-law, an elderly woman treks from Houston to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas, and finds that things have changed. Through March 3 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
South Pacific: Love blossoms for two couples amid racial prejudice and World War II in this classic musical. Runs through March 17 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatres.com
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net