Jean Lowerison

THEATER REVIEW: "brownsville song (b-side for tray)"

Not many plays feature a dead person as the main character. But playwright Kimber Lee’s “brownsville song (b-side for tray)” wants to make a point about something that happens all too often these days.

At the top of this 90-minute affecting meditation on senseless violence, Lena (Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson) rivets us with an uncomprehending, almost unbelieving stream-of-consciousness monologue about her grandson Tray.

“Aftermath is damn boring and grief be a tedious muthafucker,” she says, but “He was not the same old story. He was mine.”

THEATER REVIEW: "The Realish Housewives of San Diego: A Parody"

It’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would care about anybody else’s “real housewives,” but that just shows how far behind the curve and out of it I am.

So I went down to the Balboa Theatre last night to see what Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe’s version has to offer.

I’m happy to report that “The Realish Housewives of San Diego: A Parody” (playing a short run through Feb. 7) is a total hoot.

The troupe of six, now on a national tour, operates from a skeletal script which is beefed up with local references as they travel from city to city.

THEATER REVIEW: "Empire"

New York City’s iconic 102-story Empire State Building – built during the Great Depression in 1931 – was an architectural marvel for its time and held the record for 40 years as the tallest building in New York.

The musical “Empire” tells the story of that building. Like its namesake, “Empire” is a visual marvel, offering some of the best projection magic I’ve seen in the theater.

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THEATER REVIEW: "Plays By Young Writers"

The 31st edition of Playwrights Project’s annual “Plays By Young Writers” offers four fully produced short plays and two staged readings (chosen from 269 submissions statewide) by young writers. As it happens, all six are by female writers between 11 and 18 years old.

The four produced plays – concerned with issues of education, work and a vision of a dystopian future – were presented on opening night at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, where the series will continue through Jan. 31.

THEATER REVIEW: "Sylvia"

There are dog people. There are cat people. And then there is Sylvia.

Sylvia is ... well, she’s a dog, apparently abandoned by her owner and picked up in the park by Greg (Daren Scott), a man whose job seems to be downsizing at the same time his 22-year marriage appears to be losing its sizzle.

Greg really, I mean really likes Sylvia with her wiggly butt, her desire to sniff and/or lick nearly everything within reach, her amazingly human train of thought and ability to communicate, and her oversized gratitude.

THEATER REVIEW: "Rich Girl"

Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

I know, that’s a tired old saw, but hard-driving financial guru Eve (Meg Gibson) isn’t above adapting it to suit her needs on her TV show “Money Makeover.”

“Here’s what I learned about money,” she says. “People will hold onto it with everything they’ve got when they confuse their self-worth with their net worth.”

THEATER REVIEW: "The Whale"

Charlie laboriously drags himself (with the help of a walker) from an offstage room to his sagging living-room couch. He doesn’t sit, really, but plops, because his morbid obesity doesn’t allow him much grace or mobility. This couch in a messy apartment in Moscow, Idaho is his world.

Charlie (Andrew Oswald) spends a fair amount of time on his laptop, correcting student writing for his online class. Once in a while he masturbates to gay porn. Sometimes he has visitors, usually Liz (Judy Bauerlein), a nurse who looks in on him, straightens up the place and brings him (too much) food.

THEATER REVIEW: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

The latest, fresh-from-Broadway version of “Cinderella” offers a lot of visual stimulation (especially in William Ivey Long’s Tony-winning costume designs), a fine cast, the familiar songs from the movie and a new book that combines Hammerstein’s original book with an update by Douglas Carter Beane.

THEATER REVIEW: "Pride And Prejudice, A Musical"

You don’t often see a musical in which the writer of the source material is herself a character, but Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra show up in interesting and amusing ways in Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs’ new musical version of Austen’s beloved novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

THEATER REVIEW: "Unnecessary Farce"

There’s farce as an art form, and there’s farce as nonstop, goofball humor with nary a nod to reality.

Well, maybe “art form” is overstating it, but Playwright Paul Slade Smith nails his intent with the title of his 2006 “Unnecessary Farce,” and the play lives up (or down) to its goal with a crazy story and seven actors accomplished at farce to interpret it. Matthew Wiener (frantically) directs this San Diego premiere through May 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.