BLACK PEARL SINGS! | Merrimack Repertory Theatre offers the regional premiere of this Frank Higgins work, wherein "a search for lost African-American folk music leads Susannah, an ambitious 'song collector' for the Library of Congress, to Pearl, a woman with a soulful voice, a steely spirit, and an incredible history. Featuring many beloved American folk songs and spirituals, the legacy of the past clashes with their hopes for the future, as they journey to find their way out of the shadows and into the spotlight." Estimated running time is one hour and 50 minutes with one intermission. | Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack St, Lowell | 978.654.4MRT | Through March 7 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 4 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $26-$56

BOOM | "It's the end of the world. Do you have a date?" That's the premise for this play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb that's getting its New England premiere from Downstage @ New Rep. "As an undiscovered comet hurtles towards earth, one lone scientist takes it upon himself to preserve the human race. Hilarity ensues when the woman he has taken captive refuses to procreate, and the shelter he has built is damaged beyond repair." Scott Sweatt, Zofia Gozynska (Luciana in last summer's Commonwealth Shakespeare production of The Comedy of Errors), and ART mainstay Karen MacDonald make up the cast; New Rep artistic associate Bridget Kathleen O'Leary directs. | Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St, Watertown | 617.923.8487 orwww.newrep.org| Through March 13 | Curtain 8 pm Wed-Thurs | 8:30 pm Fri | 4 + 8:30 pm Sat | 3 + 8 pm Sun | $25 general admission

COMMIE DEAREST | For Hasty Pudding Theatrical 162, "it's the 1950s, and the residents of a typical American suburb are all vying to win the American Dream, a bowling trophy. But the arrival of star ball-loving ballplayer Doug Out and sexy-but-fishy starlet Marlin Monroe to award the prize brings everyone's secrets to the surface. And when Bobbie Sox, a local Pink-Lady-turned-Pinko-Lady, unwittingly brings a communist mastermind to town, the stakes rise even higher as everyone's way of life is threatened by the evil communist space potato Spud Nick and his Russian mail-order-bride sidekick. Their Cold War threatens to give a whole new meaning to climate change." | New College Theatre, 12 Holyoke St, Cambridge | 617.495.5205 | Through March 7 | Curtain 8 pm Thurs-Fri | 1 + 4 + 8 pm Sat | 1 + 5 pm Sun | $25-$35

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 | $30; $15 students, seniors

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