Nestled behind our hearts, its chain embedded between sinew and bone, is a pocket watch dutifully ticking. Each tick brings us closer to our last breath, and none of us knows when that will be. Well, almost none of us. For those whose so-called "mortal clock" ticks away not beside the heart but in the brain, desperation reigns.
So goes Marisa Wegrzyn's play Hickorydickory, the second offering in Moxie Theatre's new season. Set in a suburban Chicago clock shop in two time periods, Hickorydickory plays with the idea of a mortal clock as a metaphor and as a literal timekeeping device. There's more subtlety and greater emotional resonance in the metaphor and in how the awareness of life's fleeting nature inspires sacrifice and love. When the mortal clock is tangible, when it can be held and wound and even surgically removed, Hickorydickory's reflections lose much of their elegance.
Jennifer Eve Thorn directs a cast of five in which all but one play dual roles. The one who doesn't is Samantha Ginn, whose raucous Cari Lee, on account of her broken mortal clock, gets to be 17 years old throughout all 18 years of the story. In ripped jeans and baggy T-shirts and part of the time pregnant, Ginn plays most of Hickorydickory in fourth gear, but hers is a part with definite license to do so. The others in the ensemble—Jo Anne Glover, Justin Lang, John Anderson and the particularly winning Erin Petersen—bring energy and nuance to their respective dual parts without requiring significant costume or makeup changes. At times the shouting on stage is as loud as an old episode of Maude, but in junctures where the cast settles into the melody and depth of Wegrzyn's words, Hickorydickory is almost prayerful.
Besides a delightful clockshop set designed by Jennifer Brawn Gittings, the production relies heavily upon the visual theatrics of a pair of mortal-clock surgeries, complete with meticulously mixed anesthetic concoctions and modest stage blood. Consequently, Hickorydickory is in every sense a dark comedy. It's neither grim nor moralizing. Its assertion that love trumps the fear of mortality may not be unprecedented, but it is inspiring.
Hickorydickory runs through Dec. 16 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $25-$27. moxietheatre.com
A Taffeta Christmas : A successful 1950s girl group makes a triumphant return to their hometown in Indiana for a special concert. Opens Nov. 30 at Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Christmas on My Mind : Stranded by a snowstorm in a cabin in the woods, some travelers pass the time with singing and storytelling. Opens Nov. 30 at Lamb's Players Theatre. lambsplayers.org
In Our Home : An original musical about a family that spends Christmas with a couple of soldiers during the Vietnam War. Opens Nov. 30 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Persuasion : In a world-premiere adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, a woman struggles with the return of a man—once poor, now rich—whose marriage proposal she turned down years earlier. Opens Nov. 30 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Woman in the Mirror, a Dancer's Journey : Michael Jackson impersonator Devra Gregory tells her life story as a professional dancer, from ballet to burlesque to Michael. Runs Dec. 1 through 9 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
In the Red and Brown Water : A high-school track star turns her back on a scholarship to care for her dying mother. Through Dec. 1 at the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre at UCSD. theatre.ucsd.edu
A Hammer, A Bell, and A Song to Sing : What was originally a show celebrating the music of Pete Seeger became a broader piece about the folk music of social and political change in America. San Diego Repertory Theatre staged it nearly a year ago and is bringing it back now, with additional material. Through Dec. 2 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas : A Texas brothel is under a siege launched by a pesky TV reporter. Through Dec. 2 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Little Flower of East Orange : Ion Theatre Company peels back the layers of an elderly woman's past, as told by her son, after she's found unconscious in a wheelchair in Manhattan and brought to the hospital. Through Dec. 8 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Holiday Spirits : In a Dickensian-style original by local Jim Caputo, a mysterious Realtor and three prospective home-buying couples give Ron and Laura food for thought as they go about the business of splitting up and selling their house. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through Dec. 9 at the Legler-Benbough Theater at Alliant University. scrippsranchtheatre.org
When Last We Flew : A gay, black teen in small-town Kansas encounters a copy of the play Angels in America , and its effect is transformative. Through Dec. 9 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.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
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 Dec. 15 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown, and then it will open again for a run from Jan. 10 through Feb. 17. lambsplayers.org
Hickorydickory : What happens when everyone has an internal "mortal" clock that ticks until death, but you can actually hear yours and you know when it's going to stop? Through Dec. 16 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots : It's the hotly anticipated world premiere of a musical, based on the 2002 album of the same name by The Flaming Lips, about a girl who must choose between two guys and—you guessed it—battle some pink robots. Through Dec. 16 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings : A holiday sequel to the oft-performed musical focused on a 1950s-style singing group that returns from the afterlife after being killed in a traffic accident. Through Dec. 24 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! : A mean ol' beast gets a lesson in kindness when he meets his match in Whoville. Through Dec. 29 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
A Christmas Carole : The live radio play version of the classic tale, adapted by Cygnet Theatre's Sean Murray, is an annual tradition. Through Dec. 30 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.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