Typical of a hardened, blustery military man, Major-General Daniel Edgar Sickles is gruff, irascible and indomitable. As played by Andrew Barnicle in North Coast Repertory Theatre's world-premiere production of Tim Burns' Faded Glory, that's exactly what we get for the better part of two hours: an irascible bedridden general. But Sickles— based on a true-life figure in and after the Civil War—also possesses a fiercely nostalgic, practically obsessive, side: He can't let go of memories of his past. They're littered throughout his home, where he's patiently tended to by nurse and confidant Eleanor (Shana Wride, in one of her most endearing roles in recent memory).
Sickles is forced to confront the emotional complexities of his past with a vengeance during Faded Glory's swift-moving two acts. Tying to regain the Medal of Honor that was bestowed upon him and then retracted is only part of his inner turmoil. There's also the long-festering intrigue of his political and emotional relationship with Spain's Queen Isabella, his subsequent arranged marriage to one of her ladies in waiting (Frances Anita Rivera, in both roles) and his personal realization of his own frailties, which extend beyond the loss of a leg at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Enlivening but also muddling the storytelling is the dipsomaniacal John Barrymore (Bruce Turk), who conspires to bring the general and his estranged wife Condesa together again. The result of that reunion is the play's payoff dramatic moment.
Faded Glory can be unapologetic fun, mostly when the general is bantering back and forth with the indomitable but good-natured Ellie, who gives as good as she gets. The drunken oratory of scene-stealing Barrymore, too, is hard to resist, given Turk's affable interpretation. One almost longs for a Barrymore solo show, overflowing with boozefilled philosophy and weaving footsteps. But much of the noise of Faded Glory comes from the general, who interchangeably comes off as noble in his way or just plain cranky. Though the reallife Sickles' biography is problematic, his dramatization really doesn't have to be, especially in a comedy played with this kind of light touch.
Faded Glory runs through June 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $37-$54. northcoastrep.org
13 Rue de l'Amour : This French farce takes on infidelity in the late 19th century. Opens June 6 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
A Distant Country Called Youth : Richard Thomas (Johnboy Walton) portrays Tennessee Williams in a one-night-only, one-man show that spans much of the legendary playwright's life. It happens on June 9 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The Cherry Orchard : A one-night-only stage reading of Anton Chekhov's classic about a Russian woman who returns to the orchard estate that she's in danger of losing because she's deep in debt. It happens on June 9 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Re-designing Women : Oops! This West Coast premiere of a play that spoofs the 1980s sitcom Designing Women opened last week, but we neglected to include it in our last issue. It runs through June 15 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Walter Cronkite is Dead : Two women who are polar opposites are forced into one another's company during a long delay at an airport. Yep, they end up learning a lot about each other. Opens June 6 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
9 to 5: the Musical : An adaptation of the 1980 film, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, about three women who scheme to get even with their boorish boss. Through June 7 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.com
There's No Place Like Home : A world-premiere musical about a young disabled woman who has to learn to cope with homelessness. Presented by Circle Circle dot dot, it runs through June 7 at Ocean Beach Playhouse. circle2dot2.com
The Book of Mormon : In the acclaimed musical by the creators of South Park , two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda to convert the locals, who are not the slightest bit interested in being converted. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through June 8 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Clean House : The story of a woman, her maid who doesn't like cleaning houses and her husband who falls in love with another woman who's dying of cancer. Through June 8 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Happy Days : Sledgehammer theater company returns from six years in hibernation to stage Samuel Beckett's play with two characters, one who spends eternity partially buried in dirt and one who lives in a cave to escape unforgiving heat. Through June 8 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. sledgehammer.org
Mud Blue Sky : A teenage pot dealer on his way home from the prom ends up in a Chicago hotel room with three veteran flight attendants in this funny drama about making ends meet. Through June 8 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Chasing the Song : A young, female songwriter hits the male-dominated American pop-music scene in the early 1960s just as the British Invasion is starting to change everything. Through June 15 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Faded Glory : A world-premiere comedy based on a real-life Congress member and Civil War general who nearly lost the war for the Union forces. Through June 22 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Motherf**ker with the Hat : A former drug dealer fresh out of prison is back with his addict girlfriend and desperate to know whom the man's hat in her apartment belongs to. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 22 at Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike : A successful actress returns home to Pennsylvania, where her siblings have spent much of their adult lives caring for their now-deceased parents, and she's brought her dumb, much younger boyfriend with her. Through June 22 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Dog and Pony : In this world-premiere musical comedy, things get complicated for a team of screenwriters when one gets a divorce and the other realizes she wants something more than a professional partnership. Through June 29 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Milvotchkee, Visconsin : Billed as "a comedy about a tragedy," it's about a woman who works as a park docent in Wisconsin and is suffering from dementia. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through June 29 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net
The Miss Firecracker Contest : A 24-year-old Mississippi woman seeks to shed her reputation for promiscuity by entering and , hopefully, winning the titular competition. Through June 29 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
The Sunshine Boys : CBS asks a retired Vaudeville duo—who split after a year's worth of not speaking to each other off the stage—to reunite for a TV special. Through June 29 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Twelfth Night : In Shakespeare's romantic comedy, much love is professed and identities are mistaken after a shipwreck on the Adriatic coast. Through June 29 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy! : A one-man show written and performed by Brad Zimmerman, who went to New York to try to make it as an actor and then waited tables for nearly 30 years. Through July 6 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.
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