Aspiring serious novelists Kate (Samantha Ginn), Martin (Alex Guzman), Douglas (Robert Malave) and Izzy (Dana Wing Lau) each pay self-proclaimed writing genius Leonard (Jonathan Sachs) $5,000 to teach, critique and mold them in Theresa Rebeck’s super-smart Seminar. Bad idea. In short order, teaching becomes trashing, and critiquing insulting. But there’s more to this one-act staged by Inner Mission Productions than a flammable instructor-student dynamic. The series of seminars quickly become acid tests for each student’s ego, resolve, self-esteem and sex drive. The insufferably smug Leonard is always in the mix, though when the vulnerabilities of Rebeck’s genuinely drawn characters surface, even he is to a degree sympathetic.
Anyone who’s ever tried to write fiction seriously—in or out of a classroom—should be spellbound by the language of this cogent 2011 play. Kym Pappas’ expert direction elicits top performances from all, especially Sachs as Leonard and Guzman’s Martin, an understandably reluctant protégé. Seminar’s truths about writing and human insecurities are inescapable.
Seminar runs through March 26 at Diversionary Theatre’s Black Box space in University Heights. $20. innermissionproductions.org
Playwright Beth Henley’s Jacksonian Motel in Jackson, Miss., in 1964 is a motel hell. Its inhabitants include a sword swallower-turned-barkeep who’s likely committed a murder (Jake Rosko), a nitrous oxide-swigging dentist (Dónal Pugh) with terrifying mood swings, the thoroughly unstable wife who’s dumping him (Beverly Baker) and a motel maid (Kristin Woodburn) skilled in flirtation and bigotry. The only guileless figure among the distasteful bunch in this Southern Gothic melodrama is dentist-and-wife’s young daughter Rosy (Nicole Sollazzo), but she’s clearly been screwed up by her parents, and the doings at the Jacksonian Motel ain’t helpin’, as they might say in the Deep South. Henley’s one-act The Jacksonian, a wallow in misery and terror, flits back and forth in time, dangling its characters over a steaming cauldron of self-destruction. Unhinged as they appear, they manage to wax eloquent at the least predictable junctures, no doubt the product of Henley’s gift for language.
The Jacksonian runs through March 26at ion theatre’s BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. $32. iontheatre.com
Private Eyes: Steven Dietz’s dark “comedy of suspicion” in which the audience is left to their own devices to decide whether or not a couple is cheating on one another. It opens March 18 at PowPAC Community Theatre in Escondido. powpac.org
Clarence Darrow Tonight!: A one-man-show about real-life attorney Clarence Darrow, who famously defended controversial people and which earned him the nickname “Defender of the Damned.” Starring Broadway vet Laurence Luckinbill, it opens for two performances March 21 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Wizard of Oz : The story of a Kansas farm girl who gets swept up in a tornado, gets attacked by a lion and kills two witches, but somehow manages to never stop singing. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through March 20 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Now You See It : Georges Feydeau’s comical farce includes a philandering husband, hypnotism and scandalous discoveries galore. Directed by Bruce Turk, it runs through March 20 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
WaistWatchers The Musical : A musical parody about four women obsessing over diet, work out regimens, plastic surgery and sex in their search for self-love. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through March 27 at the Lyceum Space Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org
Blithe Spirit : Noel Coward’s comedy deals with a writer having to deal with two wives when the first one returns from the after-life to haunt him. It runs through April 2 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info
R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe : A return engagement of the one-man-show about a spaceship captain and the audience is part of the crew. Starring former Cirque du Soleil clown Ron Campbell, it runs through April 3 at the Lyceum Stage in Downtown. sdrep.org
Mack & Mabel : The musical story of a silent film director recalling his love affair with an actress he discovered. It runs through April 10 at the Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com
The Miracle Worker : William Gibson’s classic story of Helen Keller and her committed teacher Anne Sullivan. It runs through April 10 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
The Rocky Horror Show : You’ve seen the movie, now see the show about a couple who unwillingly stumbles upon the castle of a “sweet transvestite” and a sordid cast of characters. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through May 1 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com