In the early scenes of Gus Edwards's Louie and Ophelia, the title characters are crazy about each other. By the final scene, though, they've nearly driven each other nuts -- and have come to terms with some of the psychic demons that hinder their ability to love. Louie and Ophelia are both middle-aged, middle- class and ready to couple up. But as the two-character play moves through their relationship, the differences between them become more apparent. Louie, a warm but underachieving restaurant worker, often seems mismatched with the high-strung and ambitious Ophelia, and their early forays into the "happily ever after" are marked as much by arguments and misunderstandings as they are by tenderness and compromise. Sometimes it seems as if there's not enough storage space in the world to accommodate the couple's combined baggage. "Ophelia says in the beginning, 'Are you sure you want to get together? Because I'm a woman with problems,'" says Deborah Gallegos, who plays Ophelia. "The play is very honest about how difficult it is to form a relationship later in life. When you get with someone when you're eighteen or 21, you sort of grow into your idiosyncrasies. But as you age, you get set in your ways."
Though it takes a while to get there, Louie and Ophelia ultimately presents a hopeful, humorous view of mature love between two flawed but endearingly human adults. Audiences root for them, however impossible they may seem as a couple.
"Sometimes we're too afraid to open up until it's too late," Gallegos notes. "But the characters realize this, and they keep fighting for things to work."
A member of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City, Edwards wrote the play's two characters as African-Americans -- a black man and woman who find, and try to get along with, each other in modern American society. For El Centro Su Teatro's production, which opens at 8:05 p.m. tonight and kicks off the company's 2003-2004 season, director Phil Luna adapted the script for a Latino couple -- in this case, Gallegos and Angel Mendez-Soto. But Luna kept the bulk of the script intact, and why wouldn't he? As anyone who's ever braved the minefield of relationships knows, some elements of love -- from pain to joy and that maddening space in between -- are universal. El Centro is at 4725 High Street; tickets for the show, which runs through November 8, are $10 to $13. For details, call 303-296-0219 or log on to www.suteatro.org. -- Laura Bond
A doctor's insights find a place on stage
Dr. Richard Selzer, a surgeon and retired Yale Medical School professor, published his first collection of essays in 1974; since that time, he has written numerous works, some published, some not. Dr. Selzer has been serving as an artist in residence at the University of Colorado at Denver since August, working with theater professor Kathy Maes to stage a piece based on his collection titled The Doctor Stories. Prior to Selzer's arrival, Maes had selected a handful of stories to stage, but she felt that something was missing from the projected evening. To fill the gap, Selzer sent her a hitherto-unpublished piece, "Atrium," which is based on a personal experience.
The 75-year-old doctor retired from Yale fifteen years ago, but he still spends mornings writing in the Yale library and eats his lunch in the cafeteria. One day, so the story goes, he spotted a young boy, clearly a cancer patient, watching him. He approached the boy and asked what he would like to talk about. "What are you going to do on your last day on this earth?" the child asked. Selzer understood that helping the boy accept death would be the most important piece of doctoring he had ever done. But to do it, he would have to accept his own mortality.
With the inclusion of this moving tale, Maes was able to complete the adaptation.
The Doctor Stories opens at 7:30 p.m. tonight and runs weekends through October 10 at the Eugenia Rawls Courtyard Theater in the King Academic and Performing Arts Center (855 Lawrence Way on the Auraria campus). For information, call 303-556-2296. -- Juliet Wittman
Breast Fest Rocks
Women of all shapes and sizes will be celebrated at tonight's Breast Fest 2003, a music festival and fundraiser supporting breast-cancer research and awareness. "It's so sad to watch someone you love deal with breast cancer, and yet everyone I approached seemed to have been touched by this disease," says organizer Becky Alter, who is also a Westword advertising account executive. Adds Alter, who started out assembling a small gathering, "There was just so much support that it has really snowballed."
The inaugural Breast Fest will take place at 60 South, 60 South Broadway. For a $10 admission fee (100 percent of ticket proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Denver's Porter Hospice), patrons can chow down on a complimentary buffet provided by Macaroni Grill and groove to the sounds of three female-led Denver bands: Lickin' Lolli, the Melanie Susaras Band and the December Question. While gals are the evening's focus, "men and women are both so crucial to fighting this disease," says Alter. "I know that we can help make a difference."
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