Anita Bryant is dead and living in Rolando. On the Moxie Theatre stage, she’s gay bashing and singing the praises of oranges just like in the old days—and Anita’s not the only ghost in Zsa Zsa Gershick’s new play, Coming Attractions. The chief spirit haunting the fictitious Desert Knight Hotel in Palm Springs, circa 1979, is that of Dee Dee Windom, who, before she ran the place, lusted her way through Hollywood. Those who knew Dee Dee, in various senses of the word, have checked into the hotel to bask or writhe in her charismatic wake.
Moxie featured an early incarnation of Coming Attractions in its new-play festival two years ago. This world premiere, co-directed by Jo Anne Glover and Jennifer Eve Thorn, presumably has smoothed out the rough spots, though it feels lengthier than it should be and glutted with randy aphorisms. Its strengths are Robin Christ’s tragicomic portrayal of Veronica Scott, a noir lesbian Norma Desmond, and M’Lafi Thompson’s anchoring presence as Dani, the proprietor of the hotel Dee Dee left behind. Benjamin Cole is a hoot as the cross-dressing young Donnie, and he makes a hilarious foil for the preaching Anita Bryant (Samantha Ginn) and shrewd Dee Dee (Jill Drexler), whom only he can see.
Gershick covers a lot of ground—love, death, sex, Hollywood—and the proceedings are drenched in booze and regret.
Coming Attractions runs through July 1 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. $25-$27.
Another world premiere, Suzanne Bachner’s Brilliant Mistake, is on stage at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. The ostensible story of an “autobiographical graphic novelist” (Daren Scott) looking for his birth mother is awash in four or five other subplots, and the NVA ensemble cast delivers the stories with machine-gun speed in a first act that somehow still runs almost an hour-and-a-half. The second act, a family reunion at a Carlsbad beach, is supposed to tie things together, but it instead muddies the play’s focus and compels all the story’s eccentrics to compete for uneasy laughs. There’s a seed of an inventive comedy here, but it’s buried in ambitiousness.
Brilliant Mistake runs through June 24 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $22-$36.
As You Like It: If it’s a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe’s 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Opens June 10 in the Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.
Blood and Gifts: A piece of historical fiction, this one centers on a CIA operative during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and is rife with geopolitical intrigue involving the Americans, the Brits, the Soviets, the Afghanis and the Pakistanis. Opens June 12 at La Jolla Playhouse.
Hoodoo Love: A young woman flees the cotton fields of Mississippi in hopes of becoming a blues singer. As you might expect, there are obstacles in her path. In previews June 7 through 14; opens in earnest June 15 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown.
Joe vs. the Volcano: Remember the 1990 movie starring Tom Hanks about a guy who thinks he’s dying of “brain cloud” and agrees to jump into a volcano? Well, now it’s musical theater. In previews June 8 through 14; opens in earnest June 15 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
Spitting in the Face of the Devil: New Village Arts will donate all of the proceeds from this four-performance show—a comedic autobiographical monologue by Bob Brader about his abusive father—to the Women’s Resource Center. Runs June 7, 8, 10 and 11 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.
The Underground New Play Festival: Eight plays—written, directed and performed by UCSD undergrads. Through June 9 in UCSD’s Arthur Wagner Theatre.
The Scottsboro Boys: The Scottsboro Boys were nine black kids charged with raping two white girls in Alabama in 1931, and their case was representative of racism in the criminal-justice system. The Scottsboro Boys is a musical based on their story. Through June 10 at the Old Globe in Balboa Park.
A5678: A Musical Revue: Musical theater at its most meta, this is a revival of a play that opened in the ‘70s. The action centers on a cast of a play during the two hours before curtain. Runs through June 10 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.
Hands on a Hardbody: A musical based on a documentary? Yep. This Playhouse-commissioned play is about 10 contestants trying to win a truck in a battle of endurance, with music by Amanda Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. Through June 17 at La Jolla Playhouse.
Nobody Loves You: In this musical comedy, a grad student of philosophy goes on a reality TV show to send a message to his ex-girlfriend and ends up lighting a new flame. Runs through June 17 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.
Dirty Blonde: An aspiring actress on an annual trek to Mae West’s gravesite meets a film librarian who shares a devotion to the iconic sex symbol. Produced by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through June 17 at The Old Town Theatre.
Two by Pinter: The Lover and The Dumb Waiter: A couple of ‘50s- and ’60s-era one-acts by acclaimed British playwright Harold Pinter. Through June 17 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
California Suite: Neil Simon’s comedy is made up of four playlets, each about visitors to the Beverly Hills hotel—from New York, Philly, Chicago and London. Through June 23 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
Brilliant Mistake: This adult-themed, world-premiere comedy, about a novelist who hires a woman to find his birth mother, is set in North County and is presented as a live graphic novel of sorts. Through June 24 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women’s role in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Through June 24 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza.
William Shakespeare’s Lear: The aging king divides his kingdom and hands the pieces over to his three daughters, according to his judgment of their recitations of love for him. Of course, he messes it all up and everyone dies. Through June 24 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.
Coming Attractions: In this comedy, the proprietor of a hotel that had once catered to celebrities who wanted to get away from prying eyes has died, and some colorful folks have come to pay their respects. Runs through July 1 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
’Til Death Do Us Part: Late Nite Catechism 3: You, the theater-goer, are a member of a catechism class and part of the show in this interactive comedy. Through July 8 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.
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 Sept. 2 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown.
Richard III: King Edward IV’s malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England’s throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare’s history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.
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.