Oedipus El Rey, San Diego Rep. This isn’t Sophocles’ Oedipus, its playwright Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus Gomez. He rises from prison to become a Scarface-like, L.A. drug lord who has faith only in himself (“God’s ego’s too big”). In a Sam Woodhouse-directed production at once stark, elegantly ritualistic, and surprisingly funny, Lakin Valdez is an extraordinary Oedipus. He begins with committed intensity, then takes it places rarely seen on local stages. As does Monica Sanchez as Jocasta, Oedipus’ queen, wife — and mother. They follow the inevitable steps of Sophocle’s tragedy. But Alfaro asks, as the story unfolds, were they fated to do so? Could they have written other stories? And could the Oedipus legend be just a smear tactic, by brain-washing fatalists, to insist there are no ways out?
You Can’t Take It with You, Lamb’s Players Theatre. Kaufman and Hart’s comedy of liberation’s an antidote for single-track fatalism. Everyone in the Vanderhof household, at 761 Claremont Street, honors every whim, be it ballet dancing, playing Beethoven’s Fifth on the marimba, or experimenting with explosives in the basement. And no one gives a hoot how well they do it. At least until the Kirbys, bastions of propriety, arrive and cast a Brahminesque pall over freely cavorting spirits. But wait: mightn’t the Kirbys – or at least Mr. Kirby (since stolid Mrs. K. could audition for a statue) – mightn’t Mr. Kirby have a playful ember or twain tucked inside his tux? And mightn’t Grandpa Vanderhof (the splendid Jim Chovick) cast yet another spell and convert Kirby with his motto: “Life’s kind of beautiful if you let it come to you”? Lamb’s show won’t come to you. But you can go to it through this Sunday.
The Baby with the Bathwater, Diversionary Theatre. And now for something completely whacko. Christopher Durang’s farce/monster movie’s probably an acquired taste. It starts over the top (new parents looking at a bassinet without the slightest clue how to proceed) and remains so for an act and a half before the child in the bassinet emerges, scathed as all get-out, and attempts to rectify his upbringing. Diversionary’s production is also over the top, but consistently so, which is no mean feat, and sports fine performances by Shana Wride (especially as a self-appointed, and psychotic, school psychiatrist, and Amanda Sitton as the definitive Mother from Hell.