Is she guilty or innocent? There lies the rub for a young daughter confronted with her dying mother's claim in Orinda Starlight Village Players' production of "Go Back for Murder."

The Agatha Christie thriller about a woman imprisoned for poisoning her husband opened last weekend at the Orinda Community Park Amphitheater and continues through July 12.

According to first night audiences, the play is a fascinating mix of suspicion, intrigue and budding romance well-directed by Suzan Lorraine and featuring Laura Martin-Chapin as the daughter, and Ken Sollazzo as her love interest.

For more information, call 925-528-9225 or go to www.orsvp.org.

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    Back by popular demand, "Ella, the Musical" returns to Center Rep through July 6, at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center.

    The dynamic Yvette Cason reprises her role as the great Ella Fitzgerald in this wonderfully entertaining and often poignant story of one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time.

    Call 925-943-SHOW (925-943-7469) or go to www.lesherartscenter.org for tickets.

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    Also opening this weekend is Cal Shakes' "Comedy of Errors" featuring the hilariously out-of-control Danny Scheie as Dromio of Ephesus.

    Aaron Posner directs and promises to crank up the fun and even uncover fresh truths in one of Shakespeare's cleverest comedies.

    The show runs through July 20. Call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.

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    Can a chance meeting and a musical bond change two lives forever? Yes, according to the hauntingly beautiful musical "Once," playing through July 13, at the SHN Curran Theatre in San Francisco.

    I fell in love with the 2007 movie of the same name, which featured the real life couple -- Glen Hansard, a struggling Dublin street musician, and Marketa Irglova, a young Czech mother who can't afford her own piano and plays at the local music store.

    When she (referred to as "girl" in the play) hears "guy" play guitar, she falls in love with his songs and encourages him not to give up his music. The two join their unique voices, borrow money for a CD and get the interest of a record producer. A palpable chemistry exists between the two but "girl" is married and obstacles abound.

    I wondered how this indie film would translate to the stage. It's not a big, bold story told with flashy effects and elaborate sets like most Broadway musicals, but has a more nuanced, intimate feel. And, the real-life duo have their own unique sound I wasn't sure could be duplicated.

    Well, I was wrong on both counts. This Tony Award-winning musical totally captures the emotional heart of the film, is brilliantly directed by John Tiffany, and features Stuart Ward and Dani deWall, who have no problem bringing the emotionally charged music to life.

    An inspired marketing ploy has the audience on stage in the "pub" enjoying drinks before the show, and at intermission with the musicians providing entertainment and creating a lively pub atmosphere.

    When the show begins, the multitalented ensemble never leaves the stage. They play a variety of instruments and music from lively Irish jigs to heartbreaking ballads. They also show off their acting chops in an assortment of supporting roles.

    Writer Edna Walsh has incorporated plenty of humor that makes the tale even more poignant, while Clive Goodwin's wonderful pub quickly transforms to a variety of locations as the ensemble moves small bits of furniture around in highly entertaining dance-like movements accented with lively percussion.

    For a special evening of theater, call 888-746-1799 or go to www.shsf.com.

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    John Hale (who played Chris Christopherson in Role Players' "Anna Christie") teams up with Hilary Hesse and Matt Lai for a staged reading of David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow."

    The show inaugurates the Piedmont Oakland Rep's new space at 4137 Piedmont Ave., in Oakland.

    Headed by John McMullen, who also directs Mamet's drama, Piedmont Oakland Rep will perform at the Capoeira Mandinga. "Speed-the-Plow" performs at 2:30 and 7 p.m. June 29.

    For more information, email piedmontoaklandrep@gmail.com.

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    Local actors Henry Perkins (last seen at Town Hall in "God of Carnage") and Don Keenan, along with Jamie Waterman (alternating with Kara Ow) form a bitter love triangle in Stephen Belber's "Tape."

    The thriller takes place at Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter St., in San Francisco, and tickets include a drink at the Rex Library bar.

    For information on the show, which closes July 2, email donkeenan13@gmail.com.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.