The Pillowman: Child abuse and child murder are all the rage in theater these days. Theres John Patrick Shanleys Doubt, about a group of boys still scarred from their abuse by a pedophilic priest. And Frozen, the British import about a serial killer that was so nicely done here by iTheatre Collaborative just last month. And this, Martin McDonaghs hard, scaly commentary on family dynamics and violence, which poses the question, Does a fictional depiction of violence inspire criminals? Actors Theatres excellent cast includes Christian Miller and Jon Gentry. The show plays through May 13 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street. Call 602-253-6701 for tickets and showtimes.
The Last Five Years: Director Phillip Fazio somehow managed to persuade the folks at Mesa Encore Theatre to dump yet another production of The Fantasticks, which originally was scheduled as the companys season closer, in favor of this, composer/lyricist Jason Robert Browns two-person musical paean to ruined romance. The Last Five Years follows Jamie, a good-natured writer, and Cathy, an aspiring actress, as they meet, fall in love, get married, and break up over the course of five years. Still more good news: Fazio has eschewed the canned music that small theaters tend to use for such productions as this and has arranged for a live orchestra to provide the musical accompaniment. All performances will be held at the Mesa Arts Center in the Anita Cox-Farnsworth Studio, 1 East Main Street in Mesa through April 29. Friday and Saturday evening curtains are at 7 p.m.; Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for seniors and $25 for adults; for reservations, call 480-644-6500.
Well: Lisa Krons autobiographical play, set in the Lansing, Michigan, neighborhood where she grew up, delves into her familys medical history and addresses issues of health and sickness via her chronically ill mother and the community that this woman once saved from decline after its racial integration. Krons main conceit is her scripts structure: Its presented as a work in progress, one in which the actors often refuse to follow whats on the page, even as we look on. The original, in which Krons appeared as herself, was nominated for a Tony Award. This Arizona Womens Theatre production, directed by Ann Tully, is an Arizona première, with performances Thursday to Sunday through April 29. Ticket prices vary, depending on the day of the show; reservations are available at www.azwtc.org or by calling 480-607-7107. AWT performs at Stable Arts Theatre, 7610 E. McDonald Dr., south of Lincoln and east of Scottsdale Road.
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Previews and reviews
Pajama Tops: In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Copperstate Dinner Theatre is trotting out a remount of this, its first-ever production. One cant imagine that a quarter-century has done anything to improve Mawby Green and Ed Feilberts script, one of those silly sex farces in which stereotypically goofy people tease us and each other for two hours before finally not having sex. Theres a ditzy maid, an oafish police inspector, a woman-hating poet whos secretly gay, and a chic young couple who own the French villa in which the action, such as it is, takes place. Through May 20 at Copperstate Dinner Theater, inside Phoenix Greyhound Park, 3801 E. Washington St. For curtain times and ticket prices, call 602-279-3129.
Psycho Beach Party: Artists Theatre Project is probably hoping that no one remembers Phoenix Little Theaters crafty, long-ago production of this campy Charles Busch favorite. PLTs stunningly silly version starred Christopher Wynn in a giant, polka-dot party dress and Kirby Holt in a dirndl, either of which would be a tough act to follow even more than a decade later. If anyone can come close to making fun from Buschs expert spoof of 60s beach party films, its @PRO, which has scored in the past with equally broad burlesques. Time will tell, Berdine. Through April 29 at Soul Invictus, 1022 NW Grand Ave. Call 602-614-4154 or visit the troupes Web site at www.soulinvictus.com for times, ticket reservations, and more information.