Rarely produced, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is a schizophrenic entity—half tortured tragedy, half buoyant, fanciful comedy. This dichotomy is accentuated in the Old Globe's production, the initial directorial foray at the Balboa Park theater for Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein.
In this, the first indoor Shakespeare at the Globe in more than a decade, Act 1's shadows and Act 2's brightness are starkly different in look and tenor. Somehow, the story of jealousy run obsessively amok, abandonment, remorse, retribution and reunion (yes, there's that much going on in The Winter's Tale) coalesces in time for a magical, even supernatural, finale that restores order and good tidings. The contrast between darkness and light at its simplest is implied by the presence of two pianos on stage: a stately grand played with dramatic tension during the first act and a honkytonk upright conducive to youthful horseplay and romancing in he second.
This staging features original music (by Michael Torke) employed to keen atmospheric effect, as well as technical wonderwork such as flowers sprouting from the stage floor and star lights sweeping down from the rafters, both of which elicited "oohs" and "aahs" from the opening-night audience. The start of Act 2, with cast members holding beating metronomes—to suggest the passage of 16 years in the story—and a spookily feral moment in the forest ("bear" included) also speak to Edelstein's inspired, contemporary vision of the play. (Misfires: the reel-to-reel tape player standing in for the message of the Oracle and a broad second-act sing-along.)
Billy Campbell, back at the Globe after 10 years, looms large as the ill-fated (but ultimately redeemed) Leontes of Sicilia. He makes the king's pained regrets as stirring as his deluded jealousy. Nearly as fierce is Angel Desai, dangerously sexy in last year's Double Indemnity, as the forthright noblewoman Paulina.
The choice of modern-day dress speaks to the reality that such swirling passions as these are timeless. Still, this is a lengthy, two-headed play of frequent convolution that even in magical hands seems a Shakespeare B-side.
The Winter's Tale runs through March 16 at the Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Blithe Spirit: The ghost of a writer's exwife is summoned during a séance and ends up accidentally killing the guy's current wife, whose ghost then returns for revenge. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it opens Feb. 20 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Boys and Girls: West Coast premiere of a play that tracks a couple of years in the lives of two pairs of people who grapple with their relationships and the prospects of same-sex parenthood. Opens Feb. 20 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Detroit: This Pulitzer Prize finalist has a suburban couple hosting a backyard barbecue for their new neighbors. Things go spectacularly awry. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens Feb. 22 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
The School for Lies: A period (17th century) adaptation of Molière's The Misanthrope tells the story of a surly French hater who falls for an acid-tongued young woman. Opens in previews Feb. 19 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
She Stoops to Conquer: In a play first performed in 1773, a young, upper-crust woman poses as a maid to make it easier for her shy suitor to woo her. Opens Feb. 19 at UCSD's Mandell Weiss Theatre in La Jolla. theatre.ucsd.edu
The Dixie Swim Club : This one follows five Southern women over time, from college through middle age, as they reconnect periodically a beach retreat. Presented by Different Stages, it runs through Feb. 22 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. differentstages.biz
The Fox on the Fairway : A country-club president bets on a golf tournament but loses his ringer to the other side and replaces him with a young employee who happens to be awesome at golf. Sounds a little like Caddyshack . Through Feb. 22 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
A Lie of the Mind : Beth's severe beating at the hands of husband Jake roils two families in this 1985 Sam Shepard play. Runs through Feb. 23 at UCSD's Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Bethany : The West Coast premiere of a drama about a down-on-her-luck car saleswoman who squats in a foreclosed home as she tries to reunite with her daughter. Through Feb. 23 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Chicago : An oft-produced musical set in the 1920s about two murderous, fame-seeking women who wind up on death row. Through Feb. 23 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Five Course Love : Whimsical love stories play out at tables in five different restaurants. Through Feb. 23 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Other Desert Cities : A novelist visits her famous parents in Palm Springs amid her plans to publish a memoir that unearths an unpleasant family secret. Through Feb. 23 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Circle Mirror Transformation : The San Diego premiere of a comedy about a group of Vermonters who enroll in a summer theater class. In the process these strangers get to know one another. Through March 2 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Crumbs from the Table of Joy : It's 1950 in Brooklyn, and a grieving black widower has found puritanical religion, uprooted his teenage daughters from Florida and married a white German. Through March 2 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
DNA New Work Series: La Jolla Playhouse gives the public a chance to watch new plays being developed and rehearsed in a series of workshops and staged readings. Through March 2. Get the schedule and all the details at lajollaplayhouse.org.
The Foreigner : A comedy about a sad Brit, a guest at a Georgia fishing lodge, who pretends to speak no English so he doesn't have to talk to anyone and ends up having to save the lodge from the Ku Klux Klan. Through March 2 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Who & The What : An author of a book about women and Islam is at serious odds with her traditional Muslim father and her sister. Through March 9 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
The Gin Game : Two nursing-home residents engage in psychological warfare as they battle in games of gin rummy. Presented by Talent to aMuse, it runs through March 16 at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. talenttoamuse.com
The Winter's Tale : A king goes kooky with jealousy, suspecting that his pregnant wife has had an affair with his good friend, and orders that his newborn baby girl be abandoned in a faraway location. Through March 16 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The 39 Steps : This is a return engagement of a comedic, four-actor stage version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, as if performed by Monty Python, with lots of allusions to other Hitchcock classics. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it's ongoing at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
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