Passion, history and magical realism converge in North Coast Rep's world-premiere production of Melinda Lopez's Becoming Cuba. That's quite a convergence, and owing to the complexity and the ambition of the play, it's an uneasy one.
The talented Lopez's script makes so many points (about war, family, love, loyalty, independence) and wields swords at so many foes that Becoming Cuba overwhelms. The narrative needs tightening. Directed by David Ellenstein, the play has a first-rate cast, fronted by Eileen Faxas as widowed Adela, the apothecary trying to protect her family in the thick of the Cuban revolt against Spain in the late 1890s. Adela's turbulent life is further complicated by the love of an American journalist (grittily portrayed by Richard Baird) and her quietly tormented struggle with identity.
Becoming Cuba is also populated with monologue-rendering ghosts who impart wry and ironic commentary about the shifting sociopolitical world and humankind's misguided impulses. These figures detract from what should be the center of the play: Adela's relationship with her sister Martina (Maritxell Carrero), her rebel half-brother Manny (Steven Lone) and the would-be lover, Davis. Even so, Mark Pinter and Catalina Maynard make memorable ghosts.
Becoming Cuba runs through Jan. 23 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $37- $54. northcoastrep.org
His Girl Friday, John Guare's adaptation of the play The Front Page, kicks off La Jolla Playhouse's 2013 season. You may remember the 1940 comedy that starred Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as sparring partners in love and newspapering. Their machine-gun-speed banter and impeccable timing made the Howard Hawks film a classic.
As editor Walter Burns and ace reporter Hildy Johnson, Douglas Sills and Jenn Lyon may not be Grant and Russell, but they exhibit their own brand of swaggering chemistry and get lots of laughs. Much of the rest of the play drags, though, even with its swiftly paced dialogue (especially the overlong repartée among the jaundiced court house press corps). Notable are Mary Beth Peil as Hildy's irascible prospective mom-in-law and an eye-popping period set by Robert Brill.
His Girl Friday runs through June 30 at La Jolla Playhouse. $24-$59. lajollaplayhouse.org.
Barefoot in the Park: A free-spirited woman and a restrained man are New York City newlyweds struggling with their differences. Opens June 7 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com Extraordinary Chambers: An American executive brings his wife on a business trip to Cambodia as that country deals with the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime's crimes against humanity. Opens June 6 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. moolelo.net
The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare's play, about a man who borrows money to court a woman, gave us the terms "shylock" and "a pound of flesh." Opens June 9 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Monty Python's Spamalot: A musical adaption of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the hilarious 1975 film based on the legend of King Arthur. Presented by Broadway Theatre, it opens June 7 at Welk Theatre in Escondido. broadwayvista.com
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Six adults play quirky middle-school students in a musical comedy that spans the length of a spelling contest. Through June 8 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Underground New Play Festival: Four short plays written, performed and staged by UCSD undergrads. Each performance features two plays. Runs through June 8 and 8. theatre.ucsd.edu
Be a Good Little Widow: In a melancholy comedy, a young woman's unsatisfying marriage ends early when her husband dies, leaving her to cope with her heard-to-please mother-in-law and learn a thing or two about herself. Through June 9 at The Old Globe Theatre's Sheryl and Harvey White Stage in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Seascape: Tension surrounds a long-married couple when they encounter a couple of human-size, talking reptiles on the beach in Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Through June 9 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Shakespeare's R&J: The Bard's classic tragedy is recontextualized by four male Catholic military-school cadets. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 16 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Becoming Cuba: A world-premiere performance of a drama that focuses on a single family in Cuba as the country gains its independence from Spain at the close of the 19th century. Through June 23 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. nortcoastrep.org
Moonlight and Magnolias: A farcical look at what happens when legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick locks himself and two others in a room for five days so they can finish the script for Gone with the Wind. Through June 23 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
The Divine Sister: A bawdy parody of wholesome 1960s-era movies reveals what secrets lie within St. Veronica's convent school. Through June 30 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Fiddler on the Roof: The romantic notions of a working-class Russian Jew's daughters are a total pain in his traditional butt. Through June 30 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
His Girl Friday: In an adaptation of the 1940 film, a reporter planning to leave the business is convinced by her editor and ex-husband to stay in the game for one last scoop. Through June 30 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Greek forest is alive with fairies, magic potions and the pursuit of love in the opener of The Old Globe's summer Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 29 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
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