Encore

Poignant Irritations. Local playwright Melissa Lucero McCarl has undertaken a life of Gertrude B. Stein and her longtime lover -- or more accurately, wife -- Alice B. Toklas. The result is intriguing, mind-teasing, often moving and not without flaws. Poignant Irritations is too long, and some of the first-act dialogue seems arch. An expatriate who lived in France, Stein created a salon filled with extraordinary works of art, frequented by Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other members of what she dubbed the Lost Generation. Stein was a fierce advocate of cubism, and tried to utilize cubist theories in her writing, which is rhythmic and highly repetitive. Some of the best passages in the play are those in which Stein explains herself, as when she lectures on the meaning of her well-known and much-derided line "Rose is a rose is a rose." True to the spirit of its protagonist, Poignant Irritations is a scatter of a work, with no plot or straightforward timeline. Some of the scenes are resonant, piquant or funny; some are a perfect marriage of language and feeling. Halfway through Poignant Irritations, the two actresses change roles -- an illustration of the intense closeness of Toklas and Stein. The results are mixed. But these are fine performances, and with some tinkering, Poignant Irritations will be a first-rate play. Presented at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture through May 22, 350 South Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360, www.mizelcenter.org. Reviewed on April 21.

The Rocky Horror Show. The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of an innocent young couple whose car stalls on a country road, who then enter a sinister castle searching for a phone. What follows is a parade of freaky characters and a mishmash of horror-movie bits, with lots of sex and singing thrown in. The show is very much of its time. It premiered in the early 1970s, after the 1969 Stonewall riots that energized gay activists all over the country and led to a few years of joyous hedonism and self-assertion before the AIDS epidemic that shut all the rejoicing down. Part of the appeal of Rocky Horror -- which doesn't make a lot of sense, and isn't really particularly funny or shocking any more -- is the bond the musical has formed over the years with its audiences. People thronged midnight showings of the 1975 film in costume and carrying props. But those original devotees are in their fifties now, and anyone producing the show has to figure out an approach that will both intrigue the young and uninitiated, and satisfy those for whom it represented a coming-of-age ritual. The Pinnacle Dinner Theatre doesn't meet the challenge, though there's no shortage of talent on the stage -- particularly Nicholas Sugar as Frank 'N' Furter. But the venue is problematic, and the acoustics are bad. And then there's the note in the program forbidding audience participation. You might as well serve grilled tofu at a barbecue or stage opera without singing as perform The Rocky Horror Show sans audience participation. Presented by Pinnacle Dinner Theatre through June 5, 9136 West Bowles Avenue, Littleton, 720-214-5630, www.pinnacledinnertheatre.com. Reviewed April 21.

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