Historical and, at times, histrionical, An Iliad is one man's tireless recounting of the Trojan War, the kind of experience you wish you'd had in that interminable world-history class. Henry Woronicz, however, is the "Poet," not the professor, in this one-act affair running through Sept. 9 at La Jolla Playhouse. When he's not bounding around the stage en route to the battlefield or the gates of Troy, he's pantomiming spear-wielding combat, inhabiting the spirits of brave Achilles and heroic Hector and taking time out for some fortifying "tequila." His only companion in the storytelling is musician Brian Ellingsen, who from the bleachers provides atmospheric accompaniment on the double bass and other instruments.
Interesting though the Trojan War may be for buffs (Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson's play is loosely based on Homer's The Iliad), this production is not as theatrical as it should be, even with Woronicz's animations. An Iliad rises above the stationary when it turns metaphorical, as when Woronicz recites chronologically and at machine-gun speed mankind's wars over tortured time. The waste and the futility speak for themselves.
An Iliad runs through Sept. 9 at La Jolla Playhouse. $39 and up; lajollaplayhouse.org
Ion Theatre opens its seventh season with the local premiere of Roberto Aguirre Sacasa's The Mystery Plays, two interconnected one-act works directed by Glenn Paris. The first, The Filmmaker's Mystery, suggests the playwright's affection for Hitchcock, for Poe and, most of all, for fate at its most supernatural. But the tale of a young filmmaker (Ethan Tapley) who meets a charming stranger on a train (Benjamin Cole) and ends up escaping a deadly destiny waffles between melodrama and magical realism, and its spookiness never really takes hold. The more visceral and absorbing Ghost Children features a strong turn by Gemma Grey as a woman reliving the brutal murder of her parents and younger sister by a baseball-bat-wielding brother (Nick Kennedy). Grey's recognition of her culpability is quietly startling, and her struggle to forgive (if not forget) something unspeakable is human and restrained.
The Mystery Plays runs through Sept. 15 at Ion Theatre in Hillcrest. $20-$33; iontheatre.com
2 Across: A crossword puzzle is a metaphor for life in this comedy about a man and a woman riding an earlymorning BART train. Opens Aug. 31 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
A Midsummer Night's Dream: the Musical: The Bard's classic comedy meets popular music from the 1960s. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it opens in previews on Aug. 30 at the San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Center in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will: After a shipwreck, much love is professed and identities are mistaken on the Adriatic coast in Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Free performances open Aug. 31 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
God of Carnage: Two sets of ill-behaved parents fight over their sons' altercation in a park in this darkly comedic play, which originated in Switzerland and was adapted by Roman Polanski into the 2011 film Carnage. Through Sept. 2 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Les Miserables: In 19th-century France, a man spends much of his adult life on the run from the law while caring for the daughter of a dead prostitute. Presented Broadway San Diego, the classic musical drama runs through Sept. 2 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Anything Goes: This plot of this farcical musical, involving hijinks on a passenger ship, almost doesn't matter; this one's all about the Cole Porter tunes. Through Sept. 8 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm Still in Therapy!: Yep, it's the one-man sequel to My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy!, written by and starring funnyman Steve Solomon. Presented by Le Roy Associates, it runs through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Space at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women's roles in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Extended through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza. lyceumevents.org
The Lion in Winter: It's Christmastime in 1183, and King Henry II must decide which one of his three sons will be his successor to the throne. Through Sept. 15 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The Mystery Plays: The one-act plays in question are The Filmmaker's Mystery and Ghost Children and take their cues from Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone. Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs through Sept. 15 at BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
An Iliad : Homer's epic poem about the Trojan War is adapted, using contemporary language, into a one-man show by actor Denis O'Hare and director Lisa Peterson. Through Sept. 19 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
See How They Run : This World War II-era farce, set in Britain, takes the mistaken-identity device and runs wild with it. Through Sept. 23 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Inherit the Wind : The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes "monkey trial," at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Richard III : King Edward IV's malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England's throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare's history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
As You Like It : If it's a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
miXtape : Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Once Upon a Wedding : Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com
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