In this corner, maestro Leonardo da Vinci—Florence’s self-proclaimed eccentric genius. And in this corner, young Michelangelo Buonarroti, the self-proclaimed vessel through which God himself gives life to art. A competition in Florence in 1504 between these towering egos is the premise of Divine Rivalry at The Old Globe Theatre.
The West Coast premiere of the play by Michael Kramer (with D.S. Moynihan) is a clash of personalities more than mere tableau, with Leonardo (Miles Anderson) and Michelangelo (Euan Morton) railing against each other’s less-than-divine artistic shortcomings even as they’re manipulated by the coolly ambitious Machiavelli (Sean Lyons). The competition is a political device of his designed to rouse a citizen army.
This all said, the dramatic tension in Divine Rivalry comes and goes. Lyons could use more darkness and less smugness as the grand manipulator, and the competition never feels that important to its contestants, try as Anderson and Morton do to appear tortured in its cause. Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s eventual grudging appreciation of each other’s mastery is more eloquent than the insults and intrigue that precede it. Divine Rivalry runs through Aug. 5 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
A robust performance by Cygnet Theatre Artistic Director Sean Murray as Don Quixote invigorates the old warhorse, Man of La Mancha, at the Old Town Theatre. In the spell of love and that well-known impossible dream, Murray’s Cervantes / Quixote is the anchor for a gifted cast that includes David Kirk Grant and Bryan Barbarin (both seen in Cygnet’s stellar Parade), and Linda Libby and Katie Whalley (companionable in Ion Theatre’s Gypsy last year). A restrained overture performed by two guitarists sets in motion a production that is well-costumed (design by Jeanne Reith) and staged on a set by Sean Fanning that facilitates ominous entrances from above, sword play and fighting muleteers.
If Erika Beth Phillips is operatic as Aldonza and numbers like Sancho Panza’s “A Little Gossip” filler, the anticipation of and reveling in “The Impossible Dream,” given its due by Murray, makes revisiting Man of La Mancha satisfying enough. It runs through Aug. 26 at the Old Town Theatre. $34-$59. cygnettheatre.com
Sheila: Rock musical about a beautiful, popular high-school girl who, word has it, has been around the block a few times— if you know what we mean. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more. Opens July 20 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Incorruptible: In 13th-century France, the miracles have dried up at a local monastery because rivals have stolen the bones of a patron saint. Hijinks ensue. Through July 21 at Onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Harmony, Kansas: In this world-premiere musical, a gay farmer is convinced by his city-slicker partner to join a gay men’s singing group in a not-so-gay rural community. Through July 22 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Dames at Sea: A young Utah woman arrives in New York with dreams of stardom and then—voila!—becomes one. In between, there’s singing and dancing. Through July 29 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
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. Through July 29 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Made in the USA: A revue of various music styles that are the genuine American article, including folk, gospel, ragtime, blues and country. Through July 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Divine Rivalry: Master manipulator Niccolò Machiavelli pits Leonardo Da Vinci against Michelangelo in a mural-painting competition in 16th-century Italy. Through Aug. 5 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
The Man Who Came to Dinner: A pompous critic and radio personality is injured in a fall on the way to dinner at the home of a small-town Ohio family and must stay longer than planned as he heals. Through Aug. 5 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Nightingale: A young emporer in ancient China is feeling claustrophobic within the Forbidden City when he hears the sweet song of a bird. Yes, this, too, is a musical, with tunes by composer Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. Through Aug. 5 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Man of La Mancha: Don Quixote dreams the impossible dream, or so Miguel de Cervantes tells us, in this classic musical. Through Aug. 26 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town. cygnettheatre.com
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. lambsplayers.org
Inherit the Wind: The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes “monkey trial,” at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
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. theoldglobe.org
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. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com
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