By Zoe Yabrove
By Bree Davies
By Byron Graham
By Susan Froyd
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
Always...Patsy Cline. Always …Patsy Cline is a light, mildly entertaining evening. You get an efficiently evocative set that's divided into three parts: a down-home apartment; an old-fashioned country bar, complete with jukebox; and, in the center, the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. There are two skilled singer-performers, one of them also a comic, working in front of a tight, professional group of musicians in cowboy hats. Bright, colored lights play over the scene, and audience participation -- clapping, whooping, singing along -- is encouraged, lubricated by beer, wine and martinis. This piece, adapted by Ted Swindley, is based on a real friendship between Patsy Cline and a fervent fan, Louise, but the singing is at the heart of the enterprise, and many of the songs are close to irresistible. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through March 27, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed December 16.
Buicks. Julian Sheppard's Buicks falls squarely in the middle-age-male life-crisis genre. Bill, who owns a car dealership and has a wife, Kathy, and two children, is a glad-handing, posturing creep -- mildly racist and, most of all, utterly oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of those around him. He doesn't see his Mexican secretary, Naranja, as a person. He doesn't relate in any meaningful way to his wife. His ability to parent his children -- who never appear on stage -- is nil. When Kathy leaves him, Bill has no idea how to carry on. He takes to the road in one of his Buicks with half an intention of chasing down his wife, and with some vague idea about road trips and adventure and finding himself. There's also a lot of dialogue that's interesting and original, as well as some genuinely affecting revelatory moments. Presented by Paragon Theatre Company through March 5, Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-300-2210, www.paragontheatre.com. Reviewed February 24.
Cats. This company does as good a job with Cats as one can imagine. The dancing, choreographed by Stephen Bertles, who also directed, is seamless. The cast is lithe and graceful. They slither like snakes. They leap high and land without a sound. They're wonderfully into character, batting at each other with kitty-cat paws, or hissing or rubbing a head lightly against a fellow actor's shoulder. The voices and performances are also fine, and there are a few good numbers, such as "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" and "Gus the Theatre Cat." There's also the T.S. Eliot factor: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is the dour old poet's most playful work. But this is still Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer-impresario who arrived on the musical-theater scene like a soggy gray blanket, snuffing out any sparks of wit or originality and leaving in their place a huge, throbbing, manipulative, faintly ecclesiastical and unfocusedly ecstatic swamp of sentimentality. It's a swamp that snares these dancing kitties' feet, no matter how high they try to leap. Presented by Boulder Dinner Theatre through May 1, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-442-5671, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed December 2.
Fool for Love. Ed Baierlein has mounted a clean, skilled, well-acted production of Sam Shepard's Fool for Love at Germinal Stage and, paradoxically, the production's strengths highlight the play's weaknesses. The action takes place in a cheap motel room at the edge of the Mojave Desert, where May and Eddie are performing yet another sequence in a dance of attraction-repulsion that's been going on since both of them were in high school. An old man sits silently in a rocking chair, drinking. Outside lurks an enigmatic figure who periodically makes herself known through glaring headlights and explosions of sound. This is Eddie's other woman, who has come to track him down. The play holds your interest and continually hints at a deeper meaning beneath the flying words. But even as you worry away at the puzzle, you're fighting the suspicion that there's less here than meets the eye. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through March 6, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed February 24.
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. Presented by Impulse Theater in an open-ended run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.
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