Let's face it: theater can be a crapshoot. You spend $40 and the dice come up lame in the form of a community theatre's somnolent production of Our Town.
From a theater junkie to you, this is a smattering of the best-assuming, of course, that your tastes don't run to Joey & Maria's Comedy Italian Wedding, Triple Espresso and Beehive. There's nothing wrong with those shows-except that they're about as deep as a mud puddle and as exciting as a frozen chocolate pie.
Consider something outrageous and controversial, something to give you chat fodder long after the lights come up. Here are a few suggestions:
The world premiere of Kirsten Brandt's Berzerkergäng continues at Sledgehammer Theatre through March 16. It's a mad, murderous, incestuous world. The plot is based on ancient Norwegian "eddas," the same stuff used by Richard Wagner when he wrote his 15-hour Ring Cycle. It all starts with the theft of some gold (a computer disc) from the Rhine Maidens. Brandt sets her saga in corporate America, where the one-eyed god, Wotan, is a CEO. He's grooming his daughter Brunhilde to be his successor. When she crosses him, he takes away her immortality and sets her in a Ring of Fire, to be rescued by a rock singer named Siegfried.
Admittedly, it sounds complicated, but Berzerkergäng is funny, outrageous and a fabulous spectacle with superb performances, super costumes and a phenomenal sound design. If you manage to figure out just exactly what the Berzerkers are, please let me know.
Through Sunday, March 16 at St. Cecilia's Playhouse, 1620 Sixth at Cedar, Downtown. 619-544-1484.
North Coast Repertory Theatre's former artistic director Sean Murray made a rancorous departure late last year. However, he made good his obligation to direct a production of the 1966 Kander & Ebb musical, Cabaret, and he even managed to incorporate some of NCRT's extremely disaffected actors.
Even the walls of the theater have been painted red to give it a 1929 Berlin feel. A smokeless "smoke" machine puffs silently throughout the performance, adding even more atmosphere to the goings-on, which concern Sally Bowles (played by drop-dead gorgeous North Park resident K.B. Mercer), a drug- and alcohol-addicted American chanteuse who entertains in the low-life Kit Kat Club. She takes advantage of a good-natured American writer (Greg Tankersley), who falls in love with her even though his preference up until then was for someone hairy and buff.
The times are ominous, mirroring our own. Though Hitler hasn't come to power yet, the fascists are growing strong.
This Cabaret is spectacular-it's great fun with marvelous music and a terrific, sexy Master of Ceremonies in Jeremiah Lorenz. He's yummy, and he can dance and sing, to boot. Musical director Don LeMaster sports a cute wig and basic black, size-13 gunboats under the piano are the only clue.
Through April 6 at North Coast Repertory, 987-D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. 858-481-1055, ext. 3. (www.northcoastrep.org.)
The Los Angeles Times raved about Splendour, and so do I. Directed by Globe Theatres' associate artistic director, Karen Carpenter, the drama is like three-dimensional chess or a musical theme with spiraling variations-you never know what key you're in.
A tight ensemble performs the breathless work, tailor-made for playgoers who get off on crossword puzzles. In non-linear fashion, Morgan presents the same scene over and over, each time adding a detail. By the end of the gripping work the suspense is so thick it's palpable.
The "splendour" of the title has to do with the opulence of the setting-the home of a dictator of an unspecified country torn with internal strife. With the dictator's wife is an American photographer who waits to make a portrait of the great man. He is detained at the office. The translator is more interested in filching household treasures than in translating. A fourth character went to school with the dictator's wife. It's snowing outside, and in the distance ordnance explosions grow nearer.
Through March 16. The play continues in the intimate Cassius Carter Centre Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. 619-239-2255.
Theatre folks will turn out for this one. Saturday, March 8, Athol Fugard, the great South African playwright, reads from his latest, as-yet-unperformed work. Proceeds benefit San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre, which will produce Fugard's Master Harold...and the Boys, March 14-30.
Fugard, a sparkling raconteur, changed the course of history in his country when he put the issue of Apartheid on the stage, mingling black and white actors for the first time. Among his works are Boesman and Lena, The Road to Mecca, My Children, My Africa, Blood Knot and A Lesson from Aloes.
Festivities begin on Saturday, March 8, with a 7:30 p.m. reception, followed by the reading, then refreshments. Inner circle patrons pay $35; regular folk $20; and actors with resumes and photos only $15. Eveoke Dance Theatre, 644 7th Ave., Dowtown. 858-831-1931.