San Diego Repertory Theatre thrived during the first half of its 38th season last year, staging In the Heights, A Weekend With Pablo Picasso and Venus in Fur, all three outstanding. The Rep has launched its second half with the English-language world premiere of Caridad Svich's In the Time of the Butterflies, a play based on the 1994 novel by Julia Alvarez.
While faithful to the theater's season of adventurous material, Butterflies—the story of Las Miraposas (the Butterflies), the four daughters of a farmer in the Dominican Republic who defied the brutal Trujillo regime in the mid-20th century—is missing the seamlessness of its predecessors.
Todd Salovey, San Diego Rep associate artistic director, and artist-in-residence Herbert Siguenza co-direct a dignified but slowly unfolding production that recounts the tale of the Mirabal sisters simultaneously in real time and in retrospect through the recollections of surviving sister Dede (the other three were assassinated by Trujillo's soldiers). The show might've been better served by bookending the beginning and the end with the older Dede's storytelling to an American journalist. Catalina Maynard's tense on-stage witnessing of the sisters' (and her younger self's) transformation into revolutionaries is awkward.
As Mirabal sisters Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa and young Dede, Jacqueline Grace Lopez, Elisa Gonzales, Maritxell Carrero and Sandra Ruiz act with genuine conviction; Lopez and Carrero, in particular, are touching as sisters bound as much by love as by righteousness.
The intermittent presence of a jaunty DJ (Siguenza, who plays multiple roles, including that of Trujillo, in full military regalia) seems out of place, while screen projections behind the action (something the Rep does so well) are too few here. More of them might have further dramatized the historical scope of Trujillo's terror and the courage of those who dared to oppose him.
A definite sublime touch is the accompanying violin from the rafters, played by Batya MacAdam-Somer, which beautifully accompanies Michael Roth's soundscape.
In the Time of the Butterflies runs through Jan. 26 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. $31-$47. sdrep.org
The 39 Steps: This is a return engagement of a comedic, four-actor stage version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, as if performed by Monty Python, with lots of allusions to other Hitchcock classics. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it reopens Jan. 17 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
The Balcony: A staged reading of the French play that's set in a brothel during a popular uprising. Presented by Chronos Theatre Group, it happens on Jan. 20 at the 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. chronostheatre.com
Chicago: An oft-produced musical set in the 1920s about two murderous, fame-seeking women who wind up on death row. Opens Jan. 17 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Five Course Love: Whimsical love stories play out at tables in five different restaurants. Opens Jan. 18 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Maple and Vine: The Southern California premiere of a play about an unhappy 21st-century married couple who join a community that completely relives the 1950s. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens in previews on Jan. 18 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Nunsense: Nuns stage a variety show to raise money for the burials of the convent dwellers who were poisoned to death by the cook. Presented by Moonlight Stage Productions, it opens Jan. 16 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. moonlightstage.com
In the Time of the Butterflies : The true story of four sisters who challenged Dominican dictator Generalissmo Rafael Trujillo in 1960. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Jan. 26 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Fiddler on the Roof : A milkman tries to keep his family's traditions in place and marry off his three daughters as the Russian Revolution threatens to gain steam. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Feb. 2 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lambsplayers.com
Who Am I This Time? (And Other Conundrums of Love) : Three love stories adapted from the early work of author Kurt Vonnegut. Through Feb. 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Bug : A motel-dwelling cocktail waitress begins an affair with a war veteran and takes on his conspiracy theories. Presented by Ion Theatre Company, it runs through Feb. 8 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.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