Encore

Angels in America: Part I: Millennium Approaches. Tony Kushner's Angels in America is a complex, seven-hour masterwork about the lives of two couples and one quintessentially evil historical figure, and the inextricable way in which politics, history and private life intertwine. There's also an angel, along with other supernatural and hallucinatory manifestations. In Part I: Millennium Approaches, she's constantly threatening to erupt into the action until, with a great crash, she does. The play starts with a rabbi speaking over the coffin of an elderly Jewish woman, an immigrant from Russia, who "carried the old world on her back" to America and bequeathed it to her descendants. Journeying is a key theme in Angels, as is Jewishness. Louis, a secular Jew who nonetheless identifies strongly with his people, leaves his AIDS-ravaged lover, Prior, and is tormented by guilt. Roy Cohn, the prosecutor whose sleazy machinations ensured Ethel and Julius Rosenberg's 1953 execution, is a different kind of Jew altogether: a blustering bully who feels no guilt because he's essentially rootless, loosed from all the bonds and norms of his own culture. When Cohn develops AIDS, however, his agony is witnessed by Ethel Rosenberg herself, a nice Jewish mother returned from the dead. The AIDS epidemic is front and center in Angels (which is set in the 1980s) and fuels a sense of impending apocalypse. The break-up of Prior and Louis is paralleled by the troubles of a second couple, Joe and the pill-popping, hallucinating Harper, both of them Mormons. Despite its serious themes, Angels in America is actually almost cozy, filled with the familiar rhythms of gay and Jewish New York humor, and director Laura Jones has assembled an excellent and sometimes inspired cast. Presented in rotation with Part II: Perestroikaby Bas Bleu Theatre in collaboration with OpenStage Theatre and Company through November 20, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed October 21.

Angels in America: Part II: Perestroika. She has a cosmology, the angel of this play. As we learn in the second part, she wants to hold back change and persuade Prior, the character whose struggle with AIDS has called her forth, that he must help her do it. God was driven out of heaven by the eternal restlessness of the human race, and she and her fellow angels long for His return. Angels explores the contrast between movement and immutability in several ways -- metaphorical, political, psychological. For Prior, the end of change can only mean death, and he isn't going for it. He wants more life, no matter how much grief and terror it brings. By the play's end, two miracles have occurred: Prior has acquired the drugs that will stave off his death, and AIDS has begun its uneven progression from a usually fatal disease to one that can be managed almost indefinitely. And Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev have met in Reykjavik, Iceland, and come close to an agreement on the elimination of nuclear stockpiles. Perestroika is directed by Terry Dodd and retains the same wonderful cast as the first half of the production. Presented in rotation with Part I: Millennium Approachesby Bas Bleu Theatre in collaboration with OpenStage Theatre and Company through November 20, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed November 4.

Boston Marriage. For the entire first act, Boston Marriage is pure enjoyment. It's light and fast, and the language is dizzyingly clever and cleverly self-punctuating. The plot concerns two nineteenth-century women who live together in an arrangement termed a "Boston marriage." One of them, Anna, has snared a rich lover who has given her an emerald necklace; his contributions will help the pair survive financially. Claire has news of her own. She's infatuated with a young woman. Through all this, Anna's fuddled and incompetent maid, Catherine, makes frequent appearances, bringing tea, interrupting the conversation, adding oddly unrelated thoughts of her own. The second act of Boston Marriage isn't nearly as entertaining as the first, primarily because Anna, Claire and Catherine aren't really fleshed-out characters, but agglomerations of words. Things do get a bit more interesting as the action builds toward the O. Henry-style mini-revelation of the ending, though for the most part the plot doesn't bear much scrutiny. The dialogue is lots of fun, however. You should see Boston Marriage for the lift and flow of the language and the vicious charm of the women -- Robin Moseley as the dry-tongued Claire, and Annette Helde in a tour de force performance as the witty, sulky, vivacious and oblivious Anna. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through December 23, the Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed November 11.

Impulse Theater. Basements and comedy go together like beer and nuts or toddlers and sandboxes. The basement of the Wynkoop Brewery where Impulse Theater performs is crowded, loud and energetic. Impulse does no prepared skits, nothing but pure improv -- which means that what you see changes every night, and so does the team of actors. These actors set up and follow certain rules and frameworks; they rely on audience suggestions to get these scenes going or to vary the action. Your level of enjoyment depends a lot on whether or not you like the players. Charm is a factor, and so is the ability to take risks. Fortunately, the performers are clever and fast on their feet, willing to throw themselves into the action but never betraying tension or anxiety, perfectly content to shrug off a piece that isn't coming together. The show is funny when the actors hit a groove, but equally funny when they get stymied. So, in a way, the improvisers -- and the audience -- can't lose. Impulse Theater, oen-ended run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.

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