During this steaming summer that only an ogre could love, Moonlight Stage Productions' Shrek: The Musical is the next best thing to air conditioning. You can relax under the stars in Vista and thoroughly enjoy the song-studded antics of Shrek, Princess Fiona and that wise-ass ass merely named Donkey. You don't have to be a kid, either.
Ironically, the third show in Moonlight's summer season (after the jukebox musical All Shook Up and the very sweet The Music Man) may be geared toward children, but Shrek's the most satisfying so far for adults.
Kiddies may wonder what's so funny after some of the one-liners, but you won't be. And everyone should enjoy the first-rate sets and costumes, and winning performances from T.J. Dawson as the big green guy, Cornelius Jones, Jr. doing Donkey duty, Marc Ginsburg as Lord Farquaad and Michelle London as the grownup Fiona. With little ones in mind, this show could have been a couple of numbers shorter (sorry, fairytale characters), but it's hard to quibble with a hit, and you never argue with an ogre.
Shrek: the Musical runs through Aug. 29 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. $24-$52. moonlightstage.com
And now for something completely different. If you ever played blind man's buff as a child, you remember it as a kind of tag with a blindfold. Innocent stuff. Not in Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, the second act of which features a harrowing game of blind man's buff played by anything-but-innocent adults. Nothing is as it seems in this three-act conundrum, Pinter's second play, onstage at Moxie Theatre courtesy of the fledgling New Fortune Theatre company.
The Birthday Party, directed by Richard Baird, is just New Fortune's second full-length production since last October. While less bold than the Henry V it staged in little ion theatre, New Fortune's The Birthday Party is a tense affair that, like much of Pinter, raises more questions than it answers. Baird and Henerson play inscrutable hitman types who descend upon what may or may not be a boarding house run by Marcus Overton and the marvelous Dana Hooley. Amanda Schaar and Max Macke (playing the most miserable “birthday” boy you'll ever see) round out this cast. The Birthday Party is obscure but absorbing.
The Birthday Party runs through Aug. 30 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $21-$26. newfortunetheatre.com
Violet: Jeanine Tesori's acclaimed musical about a disfigured young woman making a cross-country trip in hopes that a televangelist can heal her. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens Aug. 20 at the Lyceum Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
And Then There Were None: Ten strangers trapped on a remote island start dropping like flies in Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery. Presented by the Pickwick Players, it opens Aug. 21 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
Unnecessary Farce: Paul Slade Smith's whimsical comedy about a police sting that goes hilariously wrong. It opens Aug. 21 at the OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
Our Lady of 121st Street: A staged reading of Stephen Adly Guirgis' dark comedy about a funeral parlor that loses the body of a beloved nun. Presented by Intrepid Theatre Company, it happens Aug. 24 at the Encinitas Library. intrepidtheatre.org
Pippin: Winner of the 2013 Tony for “Best Musical Revival,” this Broadway production of the Stephen Schwartz musical features Fosse-inspired choreography and high-flying acrobatics. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it opens Aug. 25 at the Civic Theatre in Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Repulsing the Monkey: A new play about two siblings wrestling with whether or not to sell the Pittsburgh bar they just inherited. Presented by MustBePaid Theatre, it opens for six performances Aug. 25 at the Kensington Club. mustbepaid.com
Breaking Up is Hard to Do : A musical featuring the classic songs of Neil Sedaka about a woman left at the altar, but who decides to go on her honeymoon anyway. Directed by Randall Hickman, it runs through Aug. 23 at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. broadwayvista.com
Dogfight : The local premiere of the musical about three Marines learning the power of compassion on the eve of his deployment to the Vietnam War. Presented by Cygnet Theatre Company, it runs through Aug. 23 at Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Into the Woods : Various fairy tales get a new spin in this musical by Stephen Sondheim. Presented by Star Repertory Theatre, it runs through Aug. 23 at the AVO Playhouse in Vista. starrepertorytheatre.com
The Sea Horse : The story of a loner sailor who attempts to court the owner of the bar he's been coming to for years. Presented by Different Stages, it runs through Aug. 23 at the Swedenborg Church Hall in Normal Heights. differentstages.biz
Unnecessary Farce : The comedic tale of an embezzling mayor trying to outrun his accountant, the law, and some hitmen as well. It runs through Aug. 23 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Poway. powpac.org
Shrek the Musical : A singing-and-dancing take on the movie about an ogre in love. It runs through Aug. 29 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Baskerville : A Sherlock Holmes Mystery: The West Coast premiere of playwright Ken Ludwig's clever adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Holmes tale, The Hound of the Baskervilles. It runs through Aug. 30 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
The Birthday Party : Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter's comedic tale of a group of strangers at a birthday party originally premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in 1967. Presented by New Fortune Theatre Company, it runs through Aug. 30 at the MOXIE Theatre in Rolando.
Return to the Forbidden Planet : Shakespeare's The Tempest gets a sci-fi B-movie makeover complete with a classic-rock soundtrack. It runs through Sept. 6 at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Up Here: The world premiere of the new musical comedy about a computer repairman trying to find happiness and love despite his many neuroses. Composed by the duo behind Avenue Q and In Transit, it runs through Sept. 6 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
The Supporting Cast: George Furth's lighthearted comedy about an author who invites her friends to her beach house to reveal to them that they're characters in her new novel. It runs through Sept. 13 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
The Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare's mischievous comedy about mistaken identity and long-lost twins. It runs through Sep. 20 at the Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Mixtape: The Greatest Hits of the ‘80s: The homegrown musical about the ‘80s features songs from some of the biggest pop stars of that time including Duran Duran, The Cure, Madonna, Michael Jackson and more. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 27 at the Horton Grand Theatre in the Gaslamp.