Encore

 The Fourth Wall. Playwright A.R. Gurney is angry. He considers the Bush administration a disaster; he condemns its boneheaded policies, its indifference to the plight of the poor, its pre-emptive war on Iraq. But Gurney is a kind-spirited, bourgeois, WASP kind of guy, and in this play, his anger is expressed through humor, metaphor, the protagonist's rather gentle reproaches and -- believe it or not -- the songs of Cole Porter. And it's all the more effective for that. Peggy, a middle-class housewife, is so distressed at the direction her country is taking that she redecorates her living room. She turns all the furnishings to face one wall -- the "fourth wall" -- in the theater, the invisible one that separates us from the actors. This blank barrier has a significant effect on everyone in the play. Husband Roger calls in an old friend, Julia, to assess the situation, and something happens to Julia and Roger. They preen; they begin to act. The play is propelled as much by the author's fascination with theater as by his political concerns, though ultimately, of course, the two themes mesh. A satisfying production of a funny, thought-provoking play. Presented by Nomad Theatre through November 7, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037, www.nomadstage.com. Reviewed September 23.

Kafka on Ice. Franz Kafka is a melancholy figure, a Prague-dwelling German Czech, steeped in the history of his time, the creator of a dwindling, despairing art. Kafka on Ice tells Kafka's story, about his fear of his overbearing father, his unhappy love life, his friendship with Max Brod, the way in which Gregor Samsa's predicament represents his own. But it also deals with the way a work like The Metamorphosis changes over time as it passes through the minds of friends, readers, critics, fellow writers, teachers, and tricksters like the gang at Buntport Theater. The story goes through several transmutations: It's played as farce, as an experiment with objects, as grinning, dancing musical comedy. The writer's meeting with his first love, Felice, is shown as a scene in a silent movie. This show is anything but Kafkaesque. It's lighthearted, giddy and goofy. It's safe to say that no one else -- anywhere -- is doing theater like this. Presented by Buntport Theater and alternating with Macblank through November 27, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed October 14.

Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a sometimes ironic and sometimes respectful take on Ovid's work of the same name. The cast assembles around a granite pool -- a miracle of design and engineering at the Avenue Theater -- that can be anything from a backyard pool to the Greeks' dangerous wine-dark sea, a medium for death, birth, baptism and transformation. Actors act out the myths or narrate them, sometimes addressing the audience, sometimes each other. The gods they portray are pretty much like the rest of us, vain or large-spirited, compassionate or cruel. Zimmerman may deserve all the praise she's earned for Metamorphoses, but the most powerful scenes rely on the words of Ovid and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Still, Metamorphoses is a seductive combination of lighthearted pleasure and resonant, powerful theme. Presented by the Avenue Theater, extended through November 14, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 17.

The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. This play starts like a slightly-more-eccentric-than-usual sitcom, starring one of television's most recognizable types, the kvetchy Jewish New Yorker -- a kind of older and more depressed Rhoda Morgenstern. Here Rhoda is called Marjorie, and she's saddled with a doctor husband who ignores her while taking care of the poor and appearing on television shows with titles like "The Good Walk Among Us." She also has a bitter mother, an enigmatic long-lost best friend and an Arab doorman. Marjorie's pretty funny, a sort of stick with a mop of frizzy hair who weeps, hurls herself onto the furniture in her bathrobe, dissects Nadine Gordimer and laments the book that she herself never got around to finishing. It's hard to tell whether we're supposed to sympathize while we laugh at her or whether she's intended as pure caricature. By the second act, having sketched in his characters and had some pretty hilarious jokes at their expense, playwright Charles Busch appears to have lost his way. Presented by the Theatre Group through November 20, Theatre on Broadway, 13 South Broadway, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.org. Reviewed October 7.

Trumbo: Red, White & Blacklisted. Dalton Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers whose careers were ruined during the McCarthy era because they stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee. After his bluntly hilarious non-cooperative session with the committee -- re-enacted here -- Trumbo could no longer get work in Hollywood. He spent ten months in prison, and upon his release -- amid rumors of confiscated passports and concentration camps being planned for Communist sympathizers -- he went into exile in Mexico. There he eked out a living selling screenplays to be produced under other writers' names. Clearly, this production is in part a response to current threats to civil liberties. Jamie Horton is simply magnificent in the title role -- American in that eccentric, outspoken, wise and wily way that no citizen of another country could imitate. (In the coming weeks, other actors will play the role of Trumbo.) The political elements are the play's primary strength, but there are other gems: a lecture aimed at a tradesman Trumbo feels has overcharged him; a hilarious description of the proper way to criticize a novel (which should ensure that the novelist will never write again). Best of all is a missive about masturbation that Trumbo sent to his son at college. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through October 23, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed September 9.

 
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