You're sitting in a café, quietly finishing your lobster bisque when a cell phone nearby begins to ring. It rings and rings and rings some more. It belongs to a man seated at another table. He isn't answering. He isn't breathing, either.
What happens next is the spark that lights the eccentric comedy Dead Man's Cell Phone, a play by Sarah Ruhl (Eurydice, The Next Room) getting its San Diego premiere courtesy of the always-inventive Moxie Theatre. With its crafty metaphors, snippets of dialogue that verge on non-sequiturs and an unpredictable story that flits from a little café to the Johannesburg airport to a seeming afterlife, Dead Man's Cell Phone is like a Twilight Zone episode for the 21st-century romantic.
At the core of the twisting and turning plot is Jean, the disconnected woman who answers dead man Gordon's phone and subsequently discovers a connection to herself and her desires. Jo Anne Glover is eminently likable and sympathetic as Jean, who can't help becoming immersed in the lives of Gordon's survivors—his sweet but square brother Dwight (Jonathan Sachs), his hilariously hostile mother (Kathryn Herbruck) and his ex-wife Hermia (Lisel GorellGetz), a onetime ice-skating star who now does figure-eights around martinis. Under the direction of Delicia turner Sonnenberg, the ensemble is true to Ruhl's edgy commentary on love, lies and technology. The laughs aren't easy. You say you want easy? Sorry, wrong number.
Dead Man's Cell Phone runs through Nov.6. $20-$40.
Comedy of a much broader stripe fills the stage at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado, where Servant of Two Masters melds the Commedia dell'arte tradition with a book by David McFadzean, music by Deborah Gilmour Smyth and wink-wink jokes aplenty. Four real-life married couples (including Robert and Deborah Gilmour Smyth) play four Venetian costumed pairs of lovers in a romp of verbal calisthenics and malapropisms. It's fun to look at, though the proceedings turn tiresome after an hour (there's no intermission) and you wish Geno Carr, as the title servant Truffledino, would turn down the fun-o-meter just a tad.
Servant of Two Masters runs through Nov. 20 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $14-$60.
Dead from New York: It's Pepper & Sam: The brother-sister duo Pepper & Sam kick off a new cabaret series at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
Opens Oct. 21. $20-$29. diversionary.org
Fear Beautiful Fear: DangerHouse Productions presents works by Edgar Allan Poe and another in the Grand Guignol tradition. Opens Oct. 21 at Victory Theater in Sherman Heights. $10-$15. Dangerhouse13.com
The Glass Menagerie: Cygnet Theatre presents Tennessee Williams' dark and multilayered play about Amanda Wingfield, her son, her daughter and a gentleman caller. In previews Oct. 19 through 21; opens Oct.
22 at Old Town Theatre. $24-$49. cygnettheatre.com
Heroes: Tom Stoppard's adaptation of French playwright Gerald Sibleyras' comedy about three World War I veterans reminiscing and reflecting on their lives. In previews Oct. 19 through 21; opens Oct. 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49. northcoastrep.org
Nevermore, an Evening with Edgar Allan Poe: Jeffrey Combs portrays Poe in this one-man stage show written by Dennis Paoli. It happens Oct. 25 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $25-$30. northcoastrep.org
Hair: Broadway San Diego presents the Public Theater's Tony-winning staging of the '60s counterculture musical. Through Oct. 23 at Civic Theatre, Downtown. $26.50-$56. broadwaysd.com
26 Miles: A 15-year-old is kidnapped by her estranged mother in this revelatory play by Quiara Alegria Hudes presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company. Through Oct. 23 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $22-$30. moolelo.net
Master Harold and the Boys: Community Actors Theatre presents Athol Fugard's powerful work about bigotry and loss of innocence. Through Oct. 30. $12-$14. communityactorstheatre.com
Somewhere: A family's dream of being in show business collides with the filming of West Side Story in their neighborhood. Through Oct. 30 at the Old Globe's Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park. $29-$75. oldglobe.org
Man of La Mancha: The actors are also the musicians in this staging of the Broadway musical that gave the world “The Impossible Dream.” Through Nov. 4 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $44-$47. welktheatersandiego.com
Dead Man's Cell Phone: Technology and mortality intersect in this new comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Sarah Ruhl. Delicia turner Sonnenberg directs for Moxie Theatre. Through Nov. 6. $20-$40. moxietheatre.com
Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show: Brad, Janet and, most importantly, Dr. Frank N. Furter return to the stage 38 years after a memorable debut in London and a film adaptation. Through Nov. 6 at the Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
The Servant of Two Masters: Former Lamb's Players Theatre staff member David McFadzean (who went on to create Home Improvement) returns to Coronado with a new Italian-flavored musical comedy. Through Nov. 20 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $14-$60. lambsplayers.org
Gypsy: A Musical Fable: Ion Theatre presents the classic musical by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Through Nov. 27 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn. $10-$34. iontheatre.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 Dec. 18 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net