Encore

 Alarms & Excursions. Alarms & Excursions is minor Michael Frayn, a series of comic finger pieces, but it can't help bearing the master's stamp. A group of eight playlets examines the role of technology in our lives and its impact on human communication. In the first, a friendly dinner is interrupted by a series of sounds: an unidentifiable "chink," rings and whistles, a recurring phone message in which a disembodied voice mumbles menacing things about missing cash at the office and possible prosecution. At the same time, a complicated bottle opener baffles the host and ultimately lands one of the guests in the hospital. In the second skit, two couples inhabit adjoining, identical hotel rooms, hearing and mis-hearing each other's conversations, their misunderstandings exacerbated by the fact that one couple is working-class and the second more prosperous. Most of the pieces in the second act are mere sketches, but several are pretty amusing. The set at Nomad is painted in primary colors and ingeniously constructed, but the set changes added long minutes to an already long evening. The acting was uneven, too. All in all, though, a pleasant evening at the theater. With some tightening up, it could be a delightful one. Presented by Nomad Theatre through June 19, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037, www.nomadstage.com. Reviewed May 6.

Book of Days. Lanford Wilson's Book of Days is a bitter exegesis of life in small-town America; the cast serves as narrator and chorus. At its heart is a murder. The play tells us that life in this country has been corrupted on every level and in almost every way. It posits a connection between the vile plasticized food we eat, the subjugation of women, the corporatization of America and the unholy alliance between politics and right-wing religion. But every idea is stated and stated again. Every character embodies a characteristic Wilson wants to applaud or deride. Each scene drives home a point. Most of the performances are as convincing as the script allows. Presented by the Aurora Fox through May 16, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 303-361-2910. Reviewed April 29.

Boy Gets Girl. Playwright Rebecca Gilman has won awards and been praised in all the right places. But Boy Gets Girl is limp, didactic and dated. Not that the subject matter is irrelevant. A confident and successful young woman, Theresa, connects with someone a friend has set her up with. She soon realizes she's not interested in this man and lets him down as gently as she can. Then flowers start arriving at her workplace, followed by phone messages that rapidly turn threatening. The premise of Boy Gets Girl is interesting, but the other plot elements refuse to cohere. The characters aren't characters at all, but simply actors who say things Gilman wants said; the women agonize about their own subservience, and the men are all guilty on some level. Most annoying is the assumption that stalking is just an intensification of society's general inhumanity toward women. There's obviously some connection, but stalking is a pathological act. The actors work hard at their roles, but the text keeps disintegrating in their hands like sodden Kleenex. Presented by Theatre Group through May 15, the Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.com. Reviewed April 29.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! Four talented, charming eneergetic performers work seamlessly together to create an evening of song and skit that's almost pure celebratory froth, with just the smallest undertone of genuine feeling One could wish for more bite, but the humor's exuberant and the songs clever -- and everyone needs a helping of peach soufflé now and then. In an open-ended run at the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed September 13, 2001.

Inventing van Gogh. Inventing van Gogh unleashes a torrent of ideas about art -- possibly enough for a dozen plays. The words are so evocative and so many, the set and lighting so lushly colored, the acting so selfless, that the experience of watching the play becomes all-encompassing. There are dozens of themes that deserve closer analysis, but the primary one involves the titanic struggle of an artist to wrench meaning from a recalcitrant world and ransom his own soul. The play begins when an unscrupulous art authenticator, Bouchard, visits Patrick, an art student, and proposes that Patrick fabricate a lost, legendary self-portrait, supposedly completed by van Gogh shortly before his suicide. As he struggles at the easel, Patrick hallucinates van Gogh -- who seems also to be hallucinating him. The play shifts back and forth in time; the two lives unfold. This is a wonderful -- and wonderfully literate -- script that avoids its subject's obvious pitfalls, is never ignorantly worshipful and deploys irony, passion and boldness. Presented by Curious Theatre through May 22, Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524. Reviewed April 22.

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.

 
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