What could be more wholesome than a moms-and-daughters Girl Scout getaway in the mountains? Campfires. Sing-alongs. S’mores. If that’s what you’re expecting out of Janece Shaffer’s one-act Brownie Points, now on stage at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado, hold on to your merit badges.
The story of Scout moms Allison (Karson St. John), Deidre (Monique Gaffney), Sue (Cynthia Gerber), Nicole (Kaja Amado Dunn) and Jamie (Erika Beth Phillips) camping out with their unseen daughters (they’re inside a cabin) in the North Georgia Mountains begins innocently enough. Everything is good-natured chaos, as is typical of trips like these, and the mothers’ chief anxiety is focused on the girls in their charge having a good time. But when the two African-American moms, Deidre and Nicole, discover that bossy Allison has assigned them kitchen duties for the duration of the weekend, all hell (or heck, lest any of the impressionable daughters be listening) breaks out. The tone of Shaffer’s play, directed for Lamb’s by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, shifts from carefree to tense, and the volume is ratcheted up to the level of talking heads on a cable “news” show.
The fuse is lit when Deidre calls Allison a racist, and we don’t find out until much later that more than the kitchen assignment had something to do with the accusation. The noisy confrontation and resulting chasm between these two women, with the other three mothers in varied degrees of exasperation, makes Brownie Points anything but a group bonding experience. Or so we think. The last scene, unwinding at 2 in the morning, long after the Scouts are asleep, brings all the moms, even the combatants, peacefully together again—so much so that the Carpenters’ saccharine “Close to You” finds its way into the proceedings.
There is much baring of soul and conscience in Brownie Points, and, to some degree, the comic relief ceases to relieve. Once we know Deidre’s story of what happened on her way up to the mountains, the rest just doesn’t seem funny, or much fun, anymore. That could well be playwright Shaffer’s point. If so, a closure more powerful than the one delivered is called for. The Carpenters don’t cut it.
Grease: You know the story: Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy pretends not to like girl. Girl pretends to be slutty to get boy back. Singing. Dancing. The ’50s. Opens April 27 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
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. Opens April 27 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
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. Opens April 29 at the Old Globe in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Baldwin New Play Festival: Four new plays written by students at UCSD’s School of Theatre and Dance. Through 28 in the Mandell Weiss Forum and Theodore and Adele Shank theatres at UCSD. theatre.ucsd.edu
A Man, His Wife, and His Hat: On the surface, UCSD MFA candidate Lauren Yee’s absurdist tale is about a retired hat maker in search of his missing chapeau and his missing wife. Beneath the surface is a non-linear world inhabited by a talking wall, a Cheetos-eating golem and two generations of lovers in philosophical and spiritual crisis. It’s all likely to tickle your funny bone even as it tries your patience. Through April 29 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
New Play Festival: Plays by Young Writers and Lifestages Reflections: For the first time, winning plays in a statewide playwriting contest for teens are staged in rotation with plays written by folks 55 and older. There are eight plays in all. Through April 29 at the Lyceum Space at Horton Plaza. lyceumevents.org
This: There’s a cable-TV-sitcom lightness about Melissa James Gibson’s one-act play, which finds pushing-40-somethings in glib (and occasionally desperate) midlife crisis—so much so that the ultimate excoriating of death seems too big a gesture given the action that preceded it. Still, a spot-on cast highlighted by Courtney Corey and Andrew Ableson (insecurity personified, and with the funniest lines throughout) keeps it all entertaining. Through April 29 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940: Song, dance and murder break out in this show written by John Bishop. Through May 6 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Pride: What a difference 50 years makes in the complications and perception of a homosexual relationship. The point’s clearly made in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play, directed by Ion Theatre’s artistic director, Glenn Paris. The same four actors, each of them solid, appear in both the 1958 and 2008 sequences, which alternate over two acts. The ‘50s scenes are superior in both dramatic impact and execution. Through May 6 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Topdog / Underdog: Ion Theatre borrows Moxie Theatre’s Delicia Turner Sonnenberg to direct this dark-comic tale of rivalry between two brothers, jokingly named Lincoln and Booth. Through May 12 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Late Nite Catechism: The participatory solo comedy by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan turns 20 years old this year. Through May 19 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatersandiego.com
Stepping Out: Amateur dancers are invited to perform at a big party in this upbeat comedy. Are they up to the task? Through May 20 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. welktheatersandiego.com
Brownie Points: Deborah Gilmour Smyth directs the Southern California premiere of this new play about five women who discover themselves and each other while on a field trip with their daughters, who are never seen by the audience. Through May 27 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
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 May 27 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
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. lyceumevents.org
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. mysterycafe.net