In this corner, we have Aaron, a privileged college kid from Brentwood who expects that directing a Hollywood movie will come to him as easily as the next day's mail. And in this corner, we have Aaron's assigned dorm roommate, Iskinder (aka Izzy), a middle-class immigrant, part Ethiopian, with a sincere dream of becoming a lawyer and just as sincerely fighting for something meaningful. (Never mind that he deals weed, stashed in peanut-butter jars, on the side.) Aaron and Izzy's friendship, during and beyond college, is the foundation of Jonathan Caren's new play, The Recommendation, now at the Old Globe's theater-in-the-round.
With its wit and sass and class differences, that friendship is intriguing on its own. But throw in a third party—Dwight, a street survivor / repeat offender whom Aaron meets when he's arrested and tossed into jail—and questions of conscience, loyalty and betrayal elevate this drama to compelling heights.
Caren's pungent dialogue; graphic characterizations from Evan Todd (as Aaron), Brandon Gill (as Iskinder) and Jimonn Cole (as Dwight); and an inescapable tension that closes in on the sparse stage make The Recommendation worthy of its title.
It runs through Feb. 26 at the Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up.
Imagine David Mamet meeting Quentin Tarantino and Steely Dan in The Twilight Zone. That's one way to look at Martin McDonagh's comically lurid A Behanding in Spokane, Cygnet Theatre's 2012 opener in Old Town. It's a one-act story of an armed but one-handed man named Carmichael (Jeffrey Jones, in a role played on Broadway by Christopher Walken, which should tell you something about the character right there) seeking his lost forelimb is a wild ride. The plot is complicated by two hapless double-crossers (Kelly Iversen and Vimel) and a wacked-out hotel receptionist (Mike Sears) and unfolds with profanities spewed at Gatling-gun speed, faux-gory sight gags and trademark McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) twists and turns. It doesn't amount to much of anything, but director Lisa Berger never allows the action to flag.
A Behanding in Spokane runs through Feb. 19 at the Old Town Stage. $29-$54.
American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose: Culture Clash returns to La Jolla Playhouse with a new trans-border comedy written by the troupe's Richard Montoya. Opens Feb. 4 at La Jolla Playhouse. $35 and up. lajollaplayhouse.org
An Enemy of the People: Intrepid Shakespeare Company presents Arthur Miller's adaptation of Ibsen's play about one man fighting to spread the truth. Opens Feb. 3 at the Performing Arts Center at San Dieguito Academy. $15-$25. intrepidshakespeare.com
A Raisin in the Sun: The New York Times called Lorraine Hansberry's drama about a struggling family in Chicago “a play that changed American theater forever.” Opens Feb. 4 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $20-$47. moxietheatre.com
Big Daddy returns: Community Actors Theatre's “play with music” celebrates the jazz, the blues and foot-stompin' in general. Opens Feb. 3 at Community Actors Theatre in Oak Park. $12-$14. communityactorstheatre.com
Blasted: Ion Theatre presents the late Sarah Kane's dark drama set in a dingy hotel room in Leeds. Previews begin Feb. 7, opens Feb. 9 at BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $10-$29. iontheatre.com
Golden Child: Chinese Pirate Productions presents David Henry Hwang's late-'90s Tony-nominated play. Opens Feb. 5 at Tenth Avenue Theatre, Downtown. $15-$25. chinesepirateproductions.com
Guys and Dolls: Frank Loesser's musical, based on the stories of Damon Runyon, includes the classic songs “Luck Be A Lady,” “Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat” and the title tune. Previews begin Feb. 3, opens Feb. 10 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $26-$64. moxietheatre.com
Spring Awakening: That awakening is a sexual one, experienced by young adults in a small German town. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre & Dance. Previews begin Feb. 1, opens Feb. 3 at Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD. $10-$20. theatre.ucsd.edu
The Elephant Man: The life of John Merrick is retold in the venerable play by Bernard Pomerance. Through Feb. 4 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. $14-$16. onstageplayhouse.org
The Lion in Winter: James Goldman's story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, set in 12th-century England, is tangled with familial machinations but benefits from a stentorian-voiced Mark Pinter as Henry and an insider sensibility among the cast that the story's lessons still apply today. Through Feb. 5 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49. northcoastrep.org
The Mousetrap: Agatha Christie's venerable murder play, the longest-running production in the world, is presented by Moonlight Stage Productions. Through Feb. 5 at AVO Playhouse in Vista. $22-$30. moonlightstage.com
Panache: Don Gordon's screwball comedy in which an unlikely couple meet under unusual circumstances. Through Feb. 5 at PowPAC, Poway's Community Theatre. $18. powpac.org
Pinkalicious The Musical: A fanciful work produced by North Coast Rep's Professional Theatre for Young Audiences. Through Feb. 5 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $12-$16. northcoastrep.org
Dividing the Estate: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Horton Foote's last play is a razor-tongued indictment of family greed and self-interest. Elizabeth Ashley, as Stella, the matriarch of the Gordon clan, steals every scene she's in, and she's much missed when she's offstage. Through Feb. 12 at Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
A Behanding in Spokane: Cygnet Theatre presents Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's offbeat comedy about a man searching for his missing hand. Through Feb. 19 at the Old Town Stage. $29-$54. cygnettheatre.com
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying: A rousing score by Frank Loesser highlights this musical satire of corporate America. Through Feb. 26 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. $36-$63. welktheatresandiego.com
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 Feb. 26 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org
The Recommendation: The lives of two college roommates change drastically once they enter the real world in this world-premiere play by Jonathan Caren. Through Feb. 26 at Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Brooklyn Boy: Scripps Ranch Theatre stages Donald Margulies' comedy about searching for one's roots and one's self. Through Feb. 28 at Legler Benbough Theatre at Alliant international University in Scripps Ranch. $22-$25. scrippsranchtheatre.org
42nd Street: A chorus girl gets her shot at stardom in this rousing Broadway musical by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. Through March 4 at Coronado Playhouse. $18-$25. coronadoplayhouse.com
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net