THRILLS

Wednesday May 25 Tool of the trade: L.A. band Tool gets the thumbs up from Beavis and Butthead--enough said. These alternative performers were the surprise of last year's Lollapalooza tour, where they started out headlining the second stage and, on the strength of their blistering performances, moved up to the main stage. This year they're headlining their own road trip and will bring aggressive tunes like "Jerk-off" and "Sober" to the Mammoth Events Center, 1510 Clarkson St., tonight at 7:30. Flaming Lips and Failure will warm things up. Tickets to the all-ages show are $15; call 290-TIXS.

Thursday May 26 Making all the plays: Tonight marks the return of the Women's International Theatre Festival, a unique theater event showcasing an original body of diverse works created and performed by women. Four one-hour plays--including Verbatim, an exploration of a murderer's psyche in which New Zealander Miranda Harcourt plays all six roles; Great Explanations, a storytelling performance by the feminist Random Acts company from Vancouver; Pochsy's Lips, a work by Toronto actress Karen Hines described as "Greek tragedy by Betty Boop"; and Ghana-born Akuyoe's remarkable solo piece Spirit Awakening--will be staged in repertory each evening, today through Sunday, at the Avenue Theatre, 2119 E. 17th Ave. Rounding out the event will be a series of readings, including one by Irene O'Garden, whose Fat Girl was a hit at last year's fest, performed each evening at 10:30 after the fully staged plays. Other readings take place at 1 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 and 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission to each play is $8 ($6 for the readings); to make reservations call 321-5925.

Friday May 27 An old smoothie: Now that old-fashioned Tony Bennett has become the darling of the MTV set, how about the Velvet Fog? The incomparable Mel Torme brings his fabulous pipes to Denver for Colorado Symphony Orchestra's season finale. Mel will charm audiences with movie music tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 8 at Boettcher Hall, 14th and Curtis St. Call 986-8742 for tickets, $8 to $33.

Everybody's talkin': The sleazy travails of male hustler Joe Buck and his destitute misfit companion Ratso Rizzo in New York City earned John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy an X rating when it opened in 1969, although powerful content and splendid performances by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman overshadowed the seedy bent of the film. Now 25 years old, the refurbished Cowboy, well worth a second look, returns tonight to the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway, for a one-week run--sans the wicked X--in a gorgeous new 35mm print. Call 744-6796.

Block party: Primarily a sculptor, artist John Buck took to woodblock printing when he began experimenting with pencil sketches on scrap wood left on his studio floor. The resultant process developed into large format pieces (many over six-feet high) first drawn onto a wood surface with pencil, stylus or nail and then block-printed on paper. Forty of these prints, along with some of the artist's three-dimensional works, will be exhibited at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth, beginning today and continuing through July 24. An opening reception for this show and an accompanying exhibit by Colorado printmakers Clinton Cline and Ron Fundingsland takes place this evening from 7 to 9. Call 431-3939.

Sons of the pioneers: Eclecticism is the trademark of local band The Denver Gentlemen, an aggregate of sweetly nerdy Buddy Hollys who blend traditional American sounds with quirky but popular results. Slide guitar, upright bass, fiddle, accordion, drums and Jeffrey-Paul Norlander's odd falsetto vocals strike a breadth of country music--hillbilly to western swing. The Gentlemen play The Bug, 3654 Navajo, at 8 tonight, in a live taping touted to be full of theatrical surprises. Call the Bugline, 477-5977, or just show up--tickets are only five bucks.

Saturday May 28 All's fair: Memorial Day weekend just wouldn't be the same without at least a couple of blow-out street festivals. The hallmarks of such events--food and craft vendors, live music, entertaining kid stuff and your first sunburn--all will meet under the late May skies at the Old South Gaylord Street Fair, taking place on the 1000 block of S. Gaylord today through Monday, and through Sunday at the Boulder Creek Festival, which spreads out along Boulder Creek from 13th St. to the Boulder Public Library. Highlights of the Gaylord Street event include a Strut Your Mutt contest (just the thing for you Wash Park denizens and dogs), a stationary-bicycle race, a hula-hoop contest and other such nonsense; for additional information call 758-1248. The Boulder haps will feature a traditional duck race (with rubber ducks, that is), a fishing derby, a fitness expo and an international festival; call 441-4420 or 441-3400 for details.

Return match: The Hunger Artists Ensemble continues its season at Jack's Theatre with a new production and regional premiere of Playing With Fire (After Frankenstein), Barbara Field's haunting retelling of Mary Shelley's tale, based on a final conversation between the creator and his horrible creation. Featuring a cast of ensemble members, the play will be staged at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday, through June 25; to reserve tickets--$8 to $12--call 893-5438. Jack's Theatre is located at 1553 Platte St.

Sunday May 29 Winging it: The whole family will plug their ears but ooh and aah their way through Springfest '94, a two-day affair centered around 1:30 p.m. air-show spectaculars featuring fly-bys made by an antique English Spitfire, simulated combat missions--with laser bullets--executed by the Sky Fighters, helicopter and balloon rides and aviation displays. But the fun doesn't stop there--an ongoing carnival, sports demonstrations and events, a mountain man village and many other activities fill out the hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow. It all takes place at Dove Valley Park, adjacent to Centennial Airport, located near I-25 and Arapahoe Rd. Admission is $14 (discounted $9 tickets available in advance at Arapahoe County Pizza Hut and King Soopers stores); call 779-0710 for additional information.

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