A Doll’s House Even though they debuted as a couple more than 125 years ago, Nora and Torvald Helmer would have felt right at home on Wisteria Lane. This just-promoted banker and his adorable, adoring wife are the picture of suburban contentment, if there had been suburbs when Henrik Ibsen created this couple for his 1879 play. And, just like those housewives on the hit television show, behind Nora’s perfect facade is a desperate housewife embroiled in secrets, lies and blackmail. What Director Ed Claudio wisely does in this production is to humanize the Torvald character, making the husband less brutish and more, well, desperate himself. And Nora’s layers are exposed slowly, painfully and realistically, so the quick disintegration of the marriage is more sad than empowering.
Actor’s Theatre of Sacramento; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays; $12-$14. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-6579. Through July 3.
Le Mariage Forcé (The Marriage Trap) You get two servings of this adaptation of a 1664 comedy by Molière (titled The Forced Marriage in some translations), which features pompous scholars, fortune-telling gypsies, and a wedding that the husband starts regretting even before it takes place. First, you see the play in French, with elaborate period costumes by Libby Harmor. Then, the same cast does the play again in English, with different costumes and broad physical humor drawing on the Italian commedia dell’ arte style of the late 1500s. The cast of 11 (some experienced and some new) was tutored for the French version; some are smooth, and others struggle a bit with their lines. But the story’s easy to follow; just read the one-paragraph synopsis beforehand. And it’s a treat to hear Molière in his mother tongue. This good-natured, ambitious community production is quite a lot of fun.
California Stage; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$19. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-5822, www.calstage.org. Through June 12. J.H.
Love and Taxes Monologue artist Josh Kornbluth—a fixture in the Bay Area and New York—delivers an outstanding example of his idiosyncratic art form in this delightful, rambling 90-minute show. He talks about the words in the title; his upbringing by his radical, leftist, Jewish parents; dedicated elementary-school teachers who get no respect; and the health hazards of playing the oboe. It’s a beautifully written, brilliantly performed one-man show. Given the semi-tsunami of educated Bay Area émigrés that has washed over Sacramento in the last 10 years, you’d think Kornbluth would have landed on a local stage before now. Better late than never; this show’s a treat!
B Street Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $20-$25. B Street Theatre, 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through June 5, with an extension on June 10-12. Call theater for times. J.H.
Master Harold … and the boys Celebration Arts revives its fondly recalled 2000 production of a great script by South African playwright Athol Fugard. Actors James Wheatley and J.G. Gonsalves reprise their excellent performances as two middle-aged black men working in a South African tearoom. The white, preppy son of the owner (played by Galen Howard this time around) stops by. The three characters are well-acquainted, but their friendly banter turns stormy, and the yawning gulf between South Africa’s blacks and whites opens right before your eyes. This revival doesn’t pack quite the intensity of the earlier production, but it’s still a remarkable, powerful piece. And it’s arguably the signature role for Wheatley, among many excellent performances he’s given in this long-running series of Fugard plays.
Celebration Arts; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $8 Thursday and $13-$15 other days. 4469 D Street, (916) 455-2787, www.celebrationarts.net. Through June 25. J.H.
Much Ado About Nothing This pocket-sized production of the classic Shakespeare comedy features 11 actors in 17 roles, with their numerous comings and goings squeezed onto one of the smaller stages in town. Perhaps director Christine Nicholson should consider a second career as an air-traffic controller. It’s a very funny, light and nimble production, with local professionals Jamie Jones and Eric Wheeler verbally sparring as the headstrong, reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Also in the cast are veterans of River Stage and City Theatre productions. Professional productions of Shakespeare are all too rare in Sacramento; this tasty, fun-oriented, heads-up example, using hometown Actors Equity talent and high-end community players, hopefully will serve as a model for future efforts.
Delta King Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$20 for show only, and $42-$49 for meal and show. 1000 Front Street in Old Sacramento, (916) 995-5464. Through June 26. J.H.