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Brief reviews of current shows

Impulse Theater. Basements and comedy go together like beer and nuts or toddlers and sandboxes. The basement of the Wynkoop Brewing Co., 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., 1634 18th Street, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com.

Misery. It's impossible not to know at least part of the story. Paul Sheldon, a successful writer of romance novels, is driving to the Colorado cabin where he likes to write, when he skids off the road. He wakes to find that his legs are mangled, and he's been kidnapped by a crazed woman, Annie Wilkes, who claims to be his number-one fan. Annie is controlling, needy and manipulative, giving him his painkillers or withholding them at will. When she purchases the latest installment in his series of novels and discovers that his heroine, Misery, has died in childbirth, she's incensed. Paul will write a new novel, Annie decrees, in which Misery returns to life. It's easy to see where King got the idea for this plot. He must have spent years contemplating the price of fame, the relationship of author to readers and the odd symbiosis between the two. All he had to do was imagine this relationship corrupted and carried to the extreme. Though the beginning scenes are a little static, things become pretty entertaining once a recovering Paul begins banging out Annie's requested novel. You can sense King parodying both romance fiction and his own work. In all, a well-done production. Presented by Paragon Theatre through October 29, Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-300-2210, www.paragontheatre.com. Reviewed October 13.

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. The Denver Center production of My Way features four attractive, energetic performers with strong and differing voices; 53 of the best twentieth-century songs; a set that's beautifully designed both to please the contemporary eye and to evoke the period; witty, attractive costumes; and three excellent musicians. So if you're entertaining a business client or out on a date, this is the show for you. But it's essentially a commercial enterprise rather than an evening of theater. The performers don't just sing the songs, they sell them. They're full of energy. They bounce. They never allow a moment of reflection or understatement. Sinatra was the guy sitting alone on a bar stool in a pool of light, the rakish angle of his hat belying the world-weariness of his soul. This seems an odd way to pay him homage. Presented by Denver Center Attractions in an open-ended run, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed June 9.

Naked Boys Singing! No false advertising here -- the show's about naked boys singing. The real thing. The full monty. Seven of them, some younger, some a little older, a couple more buff than others, flaunters and flirters and would-be hiders, and every one of them gallantly baring his body and showing his all. The production has no dialogue, plot or characterization; everything hinges on the songs, and some of them are pretty good -- the humorous narcissism of "Perky Porn Star," the Brechtian rhythms of "Jack's Song," with its hilarious choreographic simulation of masturbation; the unexpected devilry of "The Bliss of a Bris." The serious songs work less well. This is a show that needs to be staged with an exuberance and energy that's somewhat lacking in the Theatre Group production. Presented by Theatre Group in an open-ended run, Theatre on Broadway, 13 South Broadway, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.org. Reviewed October 27.

Realism: The Mythical Brontosaurus. Known for a prankish and highly literate experimentalism, Buntport Theater is currently experimenting with realism. Of a sort. Jack lies on his bed, alternately reading and staring into space. He's suffering a crisis of faith centered on the status of the brontosaurus. Into Jack's house blunders his sister, Fiona, with her fiancé, Michael. Once she realizes that Jack is closed in his room, Fiona tries everything in her power to get him out. Michael, meanwhile, needing to take a dump, is interested only in some quiet time alone in the bathroom. The quartet of performers is rounded out by Ben, Jack's calm and commonsensical lover, who is far more willing than Fiona to allow Jack to untangle his skein of twisted emotional and philosophical speculation on his own. The play touches on heavy themes, but the writing is light, deft, witty and completely lacking in sentimentality. And it turns out that the Buntporters are skilled and appealing straight actors. Presented by Buntport Theater in rotation with Horror: The Transformation through December 10, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed October 20.

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