The appeal of San Diego Repertory Theatre's The Federal Jazz Project , a sometimes-thrilling collaboration between Culture Clash co-founder Richard Montoya and the sublime trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, is its likeness to jazz itself. Bebopping the line between script and improvisation, this new work directed by Rep artistic director Sam Woodhouse thrives on its thoughtful changes in mood and tone and on its anticipation and surprise. The resulting experience is an ambitious cross between theater and jazz cabaret, and other than possibly biting off more storyline than it can chew, The Federal Jazz Project is a stirring success.
In terms of narrative, it tells concurrent tales: the dramas and antics in and around a south-of-Broadway nightclub in San Diego, from the late '20s to the present, and the intertwined but individually troubled identities of San Diego and Tijuana. The commentary and the comedy come from Montoya, who mixes biting and eloquent poetry with a little shtick. The heartbeat of the show, either aching or pulsating, comes from Castellanos and his stalwart sidemen. The jazz jams carry you away, but not totally from the play, which features dynamic performances from Lorraine Castellanos as "San Diego" and Claudia Gomez as "Tijuana." The Rep should be rightfully proud of this exciting production.
The Federal Jazz Project runs through May 5 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, Downtown. $35-$58. sdrep.org
What happened after Hedda Gabler shot herself in the head? The answer, according to playwright Jeff Whitty ( Avenue Q ), is The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler . The 2006 play, which premiered at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, unfolds at Diversionary Theatre like a literary-minded sketch show, with Hedda-in-the-hereafter (Jacque Wilke) meeting other notables victimized by the whims of their authors, including Margaret Mitchell's Mammy (Yolanda Franklin) and Euripedes' Medea (Shana Wride). Can Hedda break free of Ibsen? Can Mammy trade her apron for a minidress? Can you have too many Jesuses on one stage at the same time? The insights and humor feel rather labored, and you donít care too much how any of these questions is answered.
The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler runs through April 28 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $25-$51. diversionary.org.
Grey Gardens : Musical based on a documentary of the same name about Big Edie and Little Edie—Jackie Kennedy Onassis' aunt and cousin—and their descent from an opulent lifestyle. Presented by Ion Theatre Company, it runs through April 20 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Accomplice San Diego : A different kind of theater happening—part play, part game—courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls program: Audience members arrive in Little Italy and experience the story as they walk through the neighborhood and respond to clues provided to them. Runs through April 21. Find details at lajollaplayhouse.org.
An Inspector Calls : A detective arrives at the home of a wealthy businessman and politician and grills each member of the family about a young woman's death. Through April 21 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House : Director Kirsten Brandt and translator Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey present a new adaptation of the Norwegian playwright's famed feminist work. Through April 21 in The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest : A convict cons his way into a mental institution to avoid prison and tangles with a domineering nurse. Through April 21 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Assassins : A carnival shooting gallery is the starting point for a musical about nine killers or would-be-killers of U.S. presidents. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through April 28 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler : This comedy shows us the fate of Hedda Gabler and other literary figures after we last left them. Through April 28 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Damien : In a one-actor production, Robert Smyth reprises his role as a Belgian priest who ministered to people suffering from leprosy on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Through May 5 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Odd Couple : A fussy news writer's wife throws him out of the house, so he moves in with a grubby sports writer. Will they kill each other? Through May 5 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot : A struggling Gulf War vet returns home to his heartsick wife in the California desert in a play that's alternately real and surreal. Through May 5 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Pageant : You pick the winner in a musical comedy about a beauty contest. Through May 12 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.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