Portuguese is the most beautiful language in the history of the universe. I know about 11 words, but I never say them for fear I'll corrupt the tongue for all time. I'd rather listen, which is why The San Diego Repertory Theatre's The Clean House held an appeal for me, at least in the beginning. A no-account Brazilian maid (Claudia Vazquez) is in pursuit of the perfect joke, and she creates it in time to send a terminal patient to her reward with a smile. The idea is that humor trumps adversity, and the joke, bless it, is in Portuguese—but to get to it, we're faced with a series of surreal events that could have been staged far more outrageously. Writer Sarah Ruhl has quite the imagination, and she lets it run wild amid an Alaskan blizzard, a cockamamie beachside setting, a musical oratorio in an operating suite and a terminally filthy living room. Lane, a stodgy physician played by Rosina Reynolds, is the ideal lightning rod, but Sam Woodhouse's button-down direction never really exploits the silliness. The Rep's season closer runs through March 22 at The Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown. $29-$48. 619-544-1000 or www.sandiegorep.com.
—Martin Jones Westlin
A Little Night Music: A successful lawyer and his trophy wife are party to a series of events that illustrate the difficulties and splendor of romantic love. Opens in previews March 13 at Old Town Theatre, 4848 Twiggs St. in Old Town. 619-337-1525 or www.cygnettheatre.com. $24-$35.
Dancing in the Dark: A fading Hollywood star teams with a Shakespearean actor and a bunch of diverse theatrical personalities to create a musical that's strictly “entertainment.” Currently in previews, it opens March 13 at The Old Globe Theatre mainstage, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park 619-23-GLOBE or www.oldglobe.org. $52-$69.
* A Shayna Maidel: A Holocaust survivor has tales of grief and hope for her younger sister when the two are reunited in America after 20 years. Through March 23 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987-D Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach. 858-481-1055 or www.northcoastrep.org. $32-$35. See our review on this page. Dancing at Lughnasa: Five sisters from a poor rural county in Ireland awaken long-buried desires dancing to the music of a Marconi radio. Through March 30 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2727-B State St. in Carlsbad. 760-433-2345 or www.NewVillageArts.org. $22-$26.
*One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Randall McMurphy, a patient in a 1960s mental ward, empowers his fellow inmates and earns the disdain of the staff. Presented by The Theatre, Inc., the show runs through March 30 at California Ballet Theatre, 4819 Ronson Road in Clairemont Mesa. 619-216-3016 or www.thetheatreinc.com. $22-$25.
* The Seven: A brutal struggle for the throne of Thebes pits Oedipus' cursed sons against one another and transforms a peaceful countryside into a hostile battlefield. Through March 16 at La Jolla Playhouse's Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive in La Jolla. 858-550-1010 or www.lajollaplayhouse.org. $34-$60.
* tick, tick... BOOM!: Jonathan is still trying to write the great American musical before time passes him by. Presented by Stone Soup Theatre, the show runs through March 30 at The Lab, Academy of Performing Arts, 4580-B Alvarado Canyon Road in Mission Valley. 619-287-3065 or www.stonesouptheatre.net. $20-$25
Chalk it Up to Murder: HIT Productions features a cavalcade of new clues for a terrible crime. Fireside Steakhouse, 439 W. Washington Blvd. in Escondido. 619-561-8673. $16-$29.50. Joey & Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding: The fortunes and foibles at the heart of an Italian wedding are laid on the table. Holiday Inn on the Bay, 1355 N. Harbor Drive. 800-944-5639. $49.50. Where There's a Will... There's a Wake: Gangland figure Sonny Shoehorn is heir ot the family fortune unless his siblings have their way. Presented by Mystery Café Dinner Theater at Imperial House Restaurant, 505 Kalmia St. in Bankers Hill. 619-544-1600. $54.50-$59.50.