Photo by Daren Scott
Sandy Campbell and J. Tyler Jones in Awake and Sing!
The exclamation point in the title of the great Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing! is fitting. On the surface, this Depression-era play appears to be the story of a struggling Jewish family in the Bronx, but it’s really an exhortation of self-determination. When Grandpa Jacob (Eric Poppick), a dedicated Marxist with a ferocity for justice, inspires grandson Ralph (J. Tyler Jones) to rebel against the Berger family order and in particular matriarch Bessie (Sandy Campbell), the already-tense household is throttled.
New Village Arts’ production of the 82-year-old Awake and Sing! is, according to the Carlsbad-based company, its San Diego professional premiere. Kristianne Kurner directs an exquisite complementary cast, which this ensemble play absolutely demands. As Awake and Sing!’s philosophical adversaries, Poppick and Campbell are equally commanding and transcend the play’s occasional heavy-handedness, which sometimes undercuts characters like Ralph and the Bergers’ war-vet boarder Moe Axelrod (Max Macke). Also quite affecting in this interior drama is Anna Rebeck as daughter Hennie who, like her brother Ralph, is yearning to breathe free.
Awake and Sing runs through April 16 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $36; newvillagearts.org
In the unwritten manual on how to tell a deconstructed, revisionist story of the American West, it must specify that the either the atmosphere or the characters be grim, even lurid. Beth Henley’s Abundance, set in the Wyoming Territory in the late 1860s, doesn’t fully embrace its melodrama until the second act, but when it does, it does so in startling ways. Before then, though, it serves up two unsavory homesteaders, one unrelentingly mean (Francis Gercke) and the other one-eyed and bloodless (Brian Mackey). But the two mail-order brides who arrive on the scene, plucky Macon (Jacque Wilke) and naïve Bess (Jessica John), are, in different ways, sympathetic from the start. Henley’s tale of the cruelty of misguided unions and the fruitlessness of dreams in the Old West is humbling, but the Backyard Renaissance production gives the play a kind of tenacious lyricism. Even better, moving performances by Wilke and John put a human face on a terrible landscape.
Abundance runs through April 2 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $15-$30; backyardrenaissance.com
Into the Beautiful North: The world premiere of Karen Zacarías’ new play about a young Mexican who travels to the U.S. in hopes of finding men who will help him fight the banditos taking over his town. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens March 30 at the Lyceum Stage in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
First Date: A musical comedy about a blind date where the two main characters’ inner issues are manifested into the patrons at the restaurant. Presented by San Diego Musical Theatre, it opens March 31 at the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdmt.org
Flemming (An American Thriller): In Sam Bobrick’s dark comedy, a broker sells his firm to become a detective only to find his first case hits a little too close to home. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it opens March 31 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The Geeze and Me: The world premiere musical centers on the pitfalls of aging. Presented by Rag Lady Productions, it opens March 31 at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center in Downtown. thegeezeandme.com
South of the 8: An interview-based new work based on the lives and experiences of five diverse locals. Directed and co-written by Sara Zatz, it opens for three performances March 31 at the City Heights Performance Annex. lajollaplayhouse.org
Finding Neverland: The Broadway musical about real-life playwright J.M. Barrie, whose relationship with a widowed mother and her children inspire him to write Peter Pan. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it opens April 4 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com