Encore

 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. 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.

Blithe Spirit. As Blithe Spirit opens, Charles Condomine is working on a novel that features a medium who's a charlatan. He invites a local psychic over so he can observe her holding a séance. Unfortunately for his book, Madam Arcati is dotty and befuddled -- but she's the real thing. After some of the usual hocus-pocus table tapping and lots of cucumber sandwiches, she actually manages to conjure up the ghost of Charles's former wife, Elvira. Current wife Ruth is less than delighted to have her deceased predecessor flitting around the living room. Elvira, on the other hand, is a prankish spirit who thoroughly enjoys the panic and confusion she causes. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through April 24. The Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed April 8.

Communicating Doors. A leather-clad prostitute called Poopay enters a hotel room for an assignation and discovers that her customer, Reece, is a dying old man who doesn't require her usual services. Instead, he wants her to witness his confession. In the course of his business dealings and accumulation of wealth, Reece has caused intense suffering. He has also colluded in the murder of his two wives; the killings were carried out by his unsavory associate, Julian. Now he wants to ease his conscience by having Poopay take the confession to a trusted attorney. But Reece collapses, Julian figures out what's going on, and pretty soon Poopay is in desperate danger. The plot of this supernatural thriller is intricate and clever, the dialogue witty, the action laugh-out-loud funny when it isn't terrifying. There's some unevenness to the acting, but all of the performances are solid and keep things bubbling along. Presented by Openstage Theatre & Company through April 29, Lincoln Center Mini-Theatre, 417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-221-6730, www.openstagetheatre.org. Reviewed April 15.

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 exemplified by the coat of many colors the old man has given him. They sell Joseph 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.

The Merchant of Venice. Although it's a comedy, The Merchant of Venice is far darker than such sunny offerings as Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's also a difficult piece for modern audiences because of the figure of Shylock at its center. The plot is derived from anti-Semitic medieval sources; it's hard to square it with the love tangles that make up the rest of the play. Some directors simply take out the most problematic language. Denver Center director Anthony Powell, however, has chosen to present the play as written. It's a brave and intelligent choice, but also one that requires a strong directorial vision, and this production feels fragmented, lacking in balance and authority. The acting is uneven, the set flat and linear, and there are several out-and-out directorial gaffes. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through April 24. The Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed April 8.

Tongue of a Bird. Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird isn't poetry, though it wants to be. It floods the stage with lyrical phrases and poetic images as if the author were saying, "How's this one? Didn't move you? Didn't quite work? Then how about this?" A little girl is lost. She's been kidnapped, and she's somewhere in the cold mountains. Her desperate mother has hired a pilot to find her, and this woman, Maxine, is hovering above the ground in her plane, searching. Pretty soon, Maxine's dead mother begins making appearances dressed as Amelia Earhart and giving long speeches lamenting her own madness. There are some good moments, including a funny-bitter patch of dialogue in which the mother imagines that her daughter isn't lost but was accidentally left in the shed, and the potent scene in which Maxine imagines the little girl curled on the bed beside her, describing what it feels like to freeze to death. The acting is good and the play worth attending for Wendy Ishii's portrayal of Maxine's grandmother. When this rock-like and resigned old woman allows herself the ghost of a smile, you want to clap your hands with pleasure. Presented by Bas Bleu Theatre Company through April 24, 216 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed April 15.

 
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