NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH A sharp production, directed by David J. Miller, of Alan Ayckbourn’s dark satire about British residents of a suburban development who let power go to their heads after they form a crime-watch group, with catastrophic consequences. Through March 1. Zeitgeist Stage Company, at Plaza Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-933-8600, www.zeitgeiststage.com
THE WHIPPING MAN Though it takes a couple of detours into potboiler territory, Matthew Lopez’s drama is on balance an unflinching exploration, in vivid close-up, of slavery’s ugly legacy. Directed by Benny Sato Ambush and anchored by Johnny Lee Davenport’s fine performance as Simon, a former slave hoping to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Through Feb. 16. New Repertory Theatre, at Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown. 617-923-8487, www.newrep.org
INTIMATE APPAREL Lynn Nottage’s quietly affecting portrait of Esther, a black seamstress in 1905 New York who is trying to construct a life of fulfillment and meaning amid social and personal circumstances that make it an uphill struggle. Sensitively portrayed by Mia Ellis as a blend of pragmatism and romantic longing, outward self-possession and inward struggle, Esther is a fully realized character of a kind — unheralded, undervalued, the cog rather than the big wheel — that we don’t often see represented onstage. Directed by Janice Duclos. Through March 2. Trinity Repertory Company, at Dowling Theater, Providence. 401-351-4242, www.trinityrep.com
WITNESS UGANDA Griffin Matthews plays himself in this musical treatment of a story drawn from his own life — about his journey to Uganda to help build a school, only to learn the charity behind the project is a sham. The show is a joyous, wrenching experience. The script, which Matthews co-wrote with composer-partner Matt Gould, skips lightly through the preliminaries, all the better to work up to an emotional chokehold. Rousing dance breaks prove a perfect complement to Gould’s richly layered music, which ranges from street calls to a killer gospel choir. Diane Paulus directs this world premiere. Through March 16. American Repertory Theater, at Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge. 617-547-8300, www.americanrepertorytheater.org
SANDY MacDONALDDon Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com.