Starting Monday, Latina nannies and the women they work for become the subject--or target--of Lisa Loomer's "Living Out," a funny yet serious depiction of child care in America.

The American Theater Company and Teatro Vista co-production centers on Ana, a Latin American immigrant with two children, and Nancy, a liberal L.A. attorney with a newborn. Wanting to bring her son to California from El Salvador, Ana accepts work as a "live-out" caretaker for Nancy's baby. Pursuing their not-always-compatible American dreams, each woman struggles to find common ground and deal with the guilt she feels for placing child care in another woman's hands.

To director Cecilie Keenan it's more than a play about race and class: "This is really about the day-to-day foibles that we fall into," Keenan says, "because of erroneous assumptions about people we don't know or think we do."

"LIVING OUT" runs through May 22 at 1909 W. Byron St.; $25, $30; 773-929-1031.

"4 MURDERS," A Red Orchid Theatre: Provocative playwright Brett Neveu unleashes his latest black comedy Monday. A reflection on the precarious balance of life, it teems with Neveu's gallows humor as it centers on a serial killer and his quartet of victims.

Joel is a taciturn murderer who insinuates himself into the lives of four targets. He may also be the answer to their search for meaning amidst the detritus of everyday life. Can bleakness be cured by violence?

Director Guy Van Swearingen finds a pattern among these four murders: "The killings are stylized. The victims and the killer in effect conjure each other up," he says, adding: "The killer refuses to deal with the innocence, anger or disbelief that the victims stir up in him, while the victims grapple with loneliness and isolation." Closes June 5.

"ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST," Next Theatre Company, Noyes Cultural Arts Center: A cross between the Marx Brothers and "60 Minutes," Dario Fo's devastating 1970 depiction of government corruption is revived Monday in a staging by Linda Gillum.

A mental patient's inquiry into police involvement in the death of a terrorist reflects the real-life sequence of events following a 1969 bombing of a Milanese bank, when Giovanni Pinelli, an anarchist railway worker, was taken in for questioning, then "fell" from a fourth-floor window. The police called it suicide and Pinelli turned out to be innocent.

Gillum wants to capture the outrage that fueled Fo's revenge comedy. "The point is not to get preachy," she says, "but to find the balance between presenting the play's issues without sacrificing the dark farce that underlies the physical bits." Closes May 22.

"AT LAST: A TRIBUTE TO ETTA JAMES," Black Ensemble Theater: The theater continues its 29th season (dedicated to African-American women) with Sunday's world premiere of the latest musical tribute by artistic director Jackie Taylor. R&B legend Etta James deserves a show, says Taylor, because "Etta exemplifies everything I want this season to be about. She's unquestionably a legend, overcoming great personal adversity to continue breaking ground in a musical career that's now entering its fifth decade." Closes June 26.