Play by play, February 26, 2010

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  February 24, 2010

HONK! | Wheelock Family Theatre essays the clever and charming musical from Brits George Stiles and Anthony Drewe that had its New England premiere from North Shore Music Theatre in 2000. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the ugly ducking, the Olivier Award–winning show is a dubious concept that, like its central character, turns out to be a swan, with bad puns and cute songs galore. Jane Staab directs this production; musical direction is by Jon Goldberg. | Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 the Riverway, Boston | 866.811.4111 orwww.wheelockfamilytheatre.org| Through February 28 | Curtain 7 pm Fri | 3 pm Sat-Sun | $20-$25

THE ISLAND OF SLAVES | In Pierre Marivaux's 1725 study of reversal and role play, parallel pairs of aristos and servants get shipwrecked on an island occupied by runaway slaves and are forced to switch roles. That Marivaux got this play put on more than 50 years before the tumbrels rolled is remarkable. In 2010, however, his very Gallic morality charade seems stiff and schematic, however decorated with commedia trimmings and Brit translator Neil Bartlett's saucy updates. For this production, however, Orfeo Group has Cristina Todesco's creepy yet kitschy set design and Bill Barclay's now atmospheric, now winking sound design. And if director Kathryn Walsh slams the theatrical metaphor hard, still, amid the mincing and the freewheeling, the cast finds the heart of a work that in the end counsels kindness and reason. | Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St, Boston | 617.933.8600 orwww.BostonTheatreScene.com| Through March 6 | Curtain 7:30 pm Wed-Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 4 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $25 third weekend; $30 fourth weekend; $15 students, seniors

LEGACY OF LIGHT | The Lyric Stage serves up the New England premiere of this cerebral, Stoppard-esque comedy by Karen Zacarias. The first of its interweaving two stories takes place during the Age of Enlightenment, with physicist Emilie du Châtelet discovering she's pregnant. While the 42-year-old Emilie rushes to finish her studies, fearing she may die in childbirth, the second story unfolds, in which modern-day researcher Olivia finds she's unable to conceive and starts looking for a surrogate. Ingenious, entertaining, and thought-provoking, the play is in the end too contrived to evoke more than also-ran comparison to Arcadia. But even to live in Stoppard's neighborhood is to own valuable dramaturgical real estate. And director Lois Roach makes the most of Zacarias's double-pronged drollery, with the historical figures stepping out of their reality, and later their deaths, to converse not only with their modern counterparts but also with us, supplying Wikipedia-esque background and arch commentary. | Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon St, Boston | 617.585.5678 | Through March 13 | Curtain 2 pm [March 10] + 7:30 pm Wed | 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 3 + 8 pm Sat | 3 pm Sun | $25-$54

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