Encore

Art.Art begins and ends with an all-white painting -- or an empty canvas, depending on how you look at it. Serge, a wealthy dermatologist, has just invested 200,000 francs (about $40,000) in this painting, which features diagonal white lines on a white background. His friend, Marc, is appalled at Serge's gullibility and extravagance. The two men argue bitterly, and then Marc is off to Yvan's apartment to discuss the matter with him. You think at first that this will be a play about modern art, but the play is really more about friendship. Serge's canvas becomes the blank background against which the men's neuroses, insecurities, affectations and irritations are highlighted. This production, directed by Peter Anthony, features three very good performances. Presented by Nomad Theatre through March 27, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037. Reviewed March 11.

Bat Boy: The Musical. The character of Bat Boy is based on a recurring character in the Weekly World News -- a two-foot-high boy, found in a cave in West Virginia, who endorsed Al Gore for president and later almost died after being sprayed by a pesticide truck. In the musical, a human-sized Bat Boy is found by some teenagers, wounding one of them before being captured and taken to the local vet to be euthanized. But the vet's wife and daughter -- Bat Boy ultimately falls in love with the latter -- adopt and tame him. Bat Boy is betrayed by his animal nature, as well as by the vicious, tortured vet, who has an evil secret of his own. The show references all kinds of themes, featuring bits and pieces from pop culture and archetype alike. The child reared by beasts is a staple of myth and fairy tale, and the lonely soul standing at the edge of society, yearning for acceptance, stands as a metaphor for outsiders of all kinds: the artist, the homosexual, the exile. But there's nothing at all serious about Bat Boy: The Musical. You empathize with Bat Boy, but his misfortunes are just so damned amusing. The cast, directed by Steven Tangedal, is hilarious, too. Presented by the Theatre Group through May 1, Theatre on Broadway, 13 South Broadway, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.org. Reviewed March 18.

Hi-Hat Hattie.Hi-Hat Hattie tells the story of Hattie McDaniel, the irrepressible character actress of the 1930s and '40s, who voiced the lines of Aunt Jemima for radio pancake commercials and won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Embodied by the luminous Sheryl Renee, Hattie tells her story: early successes, alternating with jobs doing laundry or tending the ladies' room; a role in Show Boat opposite the legendary Paul Robeson; glittering parties thrown for such friends as Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh -- not one of whom spoke up for her when she was forced to miss the premiere of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta because she wasn't allowed into the theater. And then came attacks by the NAACP, alleging that McDaniel's portrayals were degrading. Renee makes it all work. She's a fine actress and an amazing vocalist. Above all, it's the songs that keep Hi-Hat Hattieafloat. Presented by the Aurora Fox through March 28, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 303-361-2910. Reviewed March 11.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This is a slight piece, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice in 1968 as a twenty-minute-long pop cantata for a school concert. An embryonic work, it is also far less pretentious than the puffed-up, overblown extravaganzas of later years. The musical tells the biblical story of Joseph, son of Jacob, whose brothers resent the love shown to him by their father and the coat of many colors the old man has given him. They sell him into slavery. After a lot of shenanigans that include a false charge of seduction, time in prison and the practice of prophesy for the Pharaoh, Joseph becomes a big man in Egypt. Eventually, the perfidious brothers appear, begging for food. All this is leavened with musical jokes and lots of effervescent humor. Time periods swirl into each other as schoolchildren in baseball caps move among ancient Egyptians wearing golden headdresses. The cast is talented, and the members work well together. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through June 20, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed March 18.

Visiting Mr. Green. In and off itself, Jeff Baron's play is a slight one, but meticulous production values and Ben Hammer's rich and grounded interpretation of the title character make it soar. A young business executive is ordered by a judge to pay weekly visits to the old man he almost hit with his car. He's annoyed at the obligation, and the befuddled, angry old man doesn't want him around anyway. But the judge is adamant. We all have some sense of what will happen next. These unlikely people will come to know each other, acquire mutual respect and understanding and form some kind of bond. But the devil -- and God -- is in the details. Though the dialogue feels flat at first, things soon become genuinely interesting, even mildly surprising. We're treated to insight, humor derived from real, gritty human foibles and a deeply touching ending. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through March 27, The Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed February 5.

 
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