You must have patience with Moxie Theatre's production of Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind, directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. If you do, you'll be rewarded. Childress' 1955 play, about how ingrained racism was in the American theater, is getting renewed attention, and deservedly so. But its first act, occupied with a tense rehearsal of a flawed play called Chaos in Belleville, is full of fits and starts while half the cast sits at a table, observing. As a result, it's low on energy, even with the sparkling Cashae Monya (so memorable in Moxie's Crumbs from the Table of Joy last year) in a standout supporting role.
Then comes the second act. Emotions that had been simmering before intermission come mightily to the fore. The war of wills between veteran black actor Wiletta Mayer (Monique Gaffney) and pompous white director Al Manners (Ruff Yeager) is front and center, with the exclusionary treatment of African-Americans in the theater world as their battleground. No easy answer is proffered. Childress famously refused to give her play a happy ending. Still, self-respect wins out, and that's a victory worth witnessing.
Trouble in Mind runs through Feb. 22 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $20-$27. moxietheatre.com
Chaos of a comedic kind reigns on The Old Globe Theatre's main stage with the two-man musical comedy Murder for Two. This music-hall mystery dares you not to like it. In spite of one-liner after one-liner, formula gimmick after formula gimmick, Murder for Two's Joe Kinosian (composer of the show's music and co-creator of the book) and Ian Lowe manage to make you laugh and somehow keep you involved in a whodunit in which it doesn't matter whodunit.
Kinosian does howling quick-change character duty, portraying all 10 suspects at a birthday-party murder, young and old, male and female. Lowe is the hapless sleuth trying to sort through all the alibis and silliness while providing some silliness of his own. The songs are rendered at a lone piano on stage, some times by both actors. Murder for Two gets out of control here and there, but that's its charm. For example, how can you not love a song that snarkily rhymes the awful Broadway musical Mamma Mia! with "diarrhea"?
Murder for Two runs through March 1 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Jake's Women: A staged reading of Neil Simon's play, about a writer in a struggling marriage who engages all of the females in his life—both in the flesh and imaginary representations—in a series of conversations. Presented by Carlsbad Playreaders, it happens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, at the Carlsbad City Library. carlsbadplayreaders.org
Murder at the Howard Johnson's: A slapstick comedy about a plan by a woman and her lover to off her husband. Opens Feb. 6 at The Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
This: In this comedy, a group of friends struggle with their demons and confront middle age. Opens Feb. 6 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
'night Mother: Last November, Ion Theatre produced a staged reading of this play about a divorced, epileptic woman whose life is a mess and she wants to end it. Now it's back as a full production. Through Feb. 7 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Venus: A play based on a true story of Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, a 19th-century South African who was put in a sideshow in London because of her large butt. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, it runs through Feb. 7 at UCSD's Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre. theatre.ucsd.edu
Steel Magnolias: A newly married young diabetic and the question of whether she should have a baby are the focal points of a play about the friendship of a group of women in Louisiana. Through Feb. 8 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Wrong Window: In a madcap send-up of Alfred Hitchcock, a man finds his neighbor's dead body in his closet. Through Feb. 8 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest: A rabble-rouser fakes mental illness in order to serve his sentence in a hospital rather than prison. It doesn't end well. Through Feb. 14 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Gunmetal Blues: By-the-numbers film-noir parody gets the musical treatment. Through Feb. 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Sons of the Prophet: In this Pulitzer Prize finalist, a gay adult Lebanese immigrant living in Pennsylvania must care for his younger brother and ailing uncle in the wake of his father's sudden death. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Feb. 15 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Tribute: A charming, humorous, middle-aged man faces a life crisis, prompting him to attempt to resolve his troubled relationship with his son. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through Feb. 15 at the Legler Benbough Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The Grift at the Lafayette Hotel: Director Tom Salamon's latest immersive theater experience takes audiences in and out of various rooms and other spaces inside one of San Diego's coolest hotels. Presented by La Jolla Playhouse, it runs through Feb. 22 at the Lafayette Hotel in University Heights. lajollaplayhouse.org
Trouble in Mind: In 1955, black actors struggle with their roles in a Broadway play-within-a-play that's produced and directed by white men. Through Feb. 22 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Murder for Two: In this musical, one actor plays a detective, and another plays 10 different people who are suspected of murdering a famous novelist during his birthday party. Through March 1 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Stage Kiss: In this farce, two actors with a romantic past are cast in a play about two people with a romantic past. Through March 1 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
The Darrell Hammond Project: Darrell Hammond, the longest-tenured cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live, tells his own life story in a one-man show. Through March 8 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: In a musical based on a biblical tale, a dude who has an "amazing" garment becomes a slave, but he triumphs in Egypt regardless. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through March 29 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net