Photo by Simpatika
John W. Wells III and Rachel VanWormer in The Mystery of Love and Sex
The miracle of The Mystery of Love and Sex is how Jonny (John W. Wells III), a well-intentioned but conflicted college student, doesn't go completely flippo on account of all the self-destructive narcissists in his midst including his childhood friend Charlotte (Rachel VanWormer) and her bickering parents, Howard (Mike Sears) and Lucinda (Marci Anne Wuebben).
On one hand, this tension delivers loads of sit-commish laughs at Diversionary Theatre. On the other, the underbelly of Bathsheba Doran's play, which finds both Jonny and Charlotte quite desperately addressing their sexual identities, flirts with melodrama. But Jonny, around whom the story should circulate (more than Charlotte), is an aching, vulnerable character that gives Mystery its heart. Wells admirably conveys that complexity and interiority. VanWormer's a bit frantic as Charlotte, and Wuebben's overdrawn Lucinda brings to mind one of Designing Women's Sugarbaker sisters. Sears makes the highly flawed Howard somehow likable, even warm at times.
Though lengthier than it needs to be and less revelatory than its title would suggest, The Mystery of Love and Sex does speak thoughtfully to questions of family, personal accountability and the courage required to acknowledge one's capacity for love and with whom it should be shared. These are the integral concerns not only around holidays, but all year round.
The Mystery of Love and Sex runs through Dec. 24 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. $15-$45. diversionary.org
Let's see now, a show about a live radio broadcast set at Christmastime. Didn't Cygnet Theatre in Old Town do that for years (A Christmas Carol)? Yep. Isn't New Village Arts in Carlsbad doing that right now (The 1940s Radio Hour)? Yep again. So the concept of San Diego Musical Theatre's Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play is nothing new. That being said, it's a fun evening at the Horton Grand Theatre downtown, telling the same story as the 1947 film but with original songs and arrangements by Jon Lorenz and much more comedy. The carols included seem just tossed in, but it is the holiday season and if you're at this show, then why quibble?
Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play runs through Dec. 23 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $30-$72; sdmt.org
Miracle on 34th Street: A live radio show performance of the holiday classic about a department store Santa who believes he’s the real thing. Presented by the Oceanside Theatre Company, it opens Dec. 16 for four performances at the Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. oceansidetheatre.org
A Charlie Brown Christmas: Everybody’s favorite forlorn Peanut sets out to find the true meaning of the holiday. It opens for two performances Dec. 17 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.biz