Wee Thomas the cat isn’t quite feeling himself these days. Truth be told, he’s not feeling much of anything ever since two blokes blew his brains out in a ruse to lure his master home. It so happens the owner is the notorious Padraic, a northern Irish paramilitary whose love for Wee Tom trumps his bloodlust (when we first meet him, he’s trussed up a badly beaten drug dealer by the ankles and is about to relieve him of a nipple). He beats feet to the more placid climes of Inishmore island posthaste, his search for feline justice evolving into a bloodletting and dismemberment the likes of which local theater has rarely seen.
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh wrote The Lieutenant of Inishmore as a jet-black satire on Irish republican activists and their supposedly shallow motives—their colossal maudlin streak, he seems to say, invariably wins out over whatever sense of patriotism drives their cause.
But two elements hobble this ambitious Ion Theatre Company entry: Even as the blood and gore is considerable, it also falls short against McDonagh’s eviscerating dialogue (featuring Ryan Kidd’s thunderous bombasts as the simpleton Davey). Director Claudio Raygoza needs to drown his stage in rivers of crimson and arms and legs, the same way McDonagh must do more to humanize his characters and thus gain our interest in them; he’s on the right track as he introduces Mairead (Morgan Trant), who’s equally interested in bloody revolution and banging Padraic. McDonagh knows black comedy, and Kyle Sorrell and Walter Ritter are fine as time-bomb Padraic and his punch-drunk father Danny in a show that almost works (but not quite).
Through April 9 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn, 3704 Sixth Ave. in Hillcrest. $25-$29. iontheatre.com
Cabaret: A cabaret singer, an American writer and the denizens of Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub are caught up in the swirling maelstrom of a changing society on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power. Produced by Cygnet Theatre Company, it’s in previews March 17 and opens March 26 at the Old Town Theatre in Old Town. $25-$54. cygnettheatre.com
Groundswell: In a small lodge on the South African coast, three men find themselves caught in a power struggle fueled by greed and desperation and will go to any length to secure a chance at a better life. In previews now, it opens March 17 at The Old Globe Theatre’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29-$67. oldglobe.org
In the Next Room (or the vibrator play): A group of men and women get curious as a gynecologist treats “women’s problems” with a newfangled electric vibrator in 1885 upstate New York. Produced by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it opens in previews March 19 at The Lyceum, Downtown. $29-$53. sdrep.org
Rafta, Rafta: Two newlyweds find that starting their life together under the groom’s family’s roof is no honeymoon. In previews March 19, it opens March 24 at The Old Globe Theatre mainstage in Balboa Park. $29-$70. oldglobe.org
Last of the Red-Hot Lovers: Dreary barney invites three women to his house while his wife and kids are away for the summer. Through March 19 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. $8-$16, onstageplayhouse.org
* Eurydice: Dying too young on her wedding day, Eurydice must journey to the underworld, where she reunites with her father and struggles to remember her lost love. Produced by the SDSU School of Theatre, Television and Film, it runs through March 20 at the Experimental Theatre. $13-$15. theatre.sdsu.edu
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: A group of dysfunctional wannabe spelling champs compete for a title and drive the adults to distraction. Produced by San Diego Junior Theatre, it runs in repertory with Fantastic Mr. Fox through March 19 at Casa del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park. $8-$14. juniortheatre.com
Richard II: The English throne is about to be usurped, laying the groundwork for a bloody civil war. Produced by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through March 20 at Roundabout Theatre on the campus of San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas. $15-$25. intrepidshakespeare.com
* Steel Magnolias: Truvy Jones’ hair salon is a cultural center of Chinquapin, La.—a place where three generations of women can laugh, cry and celebrate together. Produced by Lamb’s Players Theatre, it runs through March 20 at the Ione and Paul Harter Stage in Coronado. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org
The Drawer Boy: Two World War II vets and a befuddled young actor find the meaning of true friendship through the transformative power of storytelling. Through March 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $30-$47. northcoastrep.org
Little Miss Sunshine: When Olive Hoover enters a regional children’s beauty pageant, the family thinks its bad luck could change and embarks on a cross-country trek. Produced by La Jolla Playhouse, it runs through March 27 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre in La Jolla. $49-$64. lajollaplayhouse.org
Skin Deep: Joe and Maureen are perfect for each other, even if they can’t admit it. Through March 27 at Poway Performing Arts Center in Poway. $13-$15. powpac.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 April 23 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org