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Brief reviews of current shows

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.

Party of 1. This is a good play to go to with a date, or to attend in hopes of finding one. The show is a sequence of cabaret songs dedicated to the joys and pains of singlehood, slightly reminiscent of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, though without the monologues; fizzier and more light-hearted than Sex and the City, but less weighted with ego and pretension. Four appealing people spin through songs with topics ranging from the insecurities raised by meet-and-mingle functions through concerns about bad breath to the intense ambivalence you feel when someone with whom you're having a great relationship actually takes the next step and moves into your apartment. Party of 1 ran forever in the Bay Area, where writer-composer Morris Bobrow is famed for his clever lyrics and bright, listenable tunes. Good-natured and enjoyable, with just an edge of grown-up irony, the show deserves its popularity. Presented by the Playwright Theatre through January 31, 2119 East 17th Avenue, 303-499-0383, www.playwrighttheatre.com. Reviewed November 17.

September Shoes. The play tells the story of a couple, Gail and Alberto, who are returning to the desert town of Dolores, where they grew up, to attend the funeral of Gail's aunt. This aunt, proprietor of a Chinese-Mexican restaurant, brought Gail up, but Gail's feelings toward her are ambivalent. Alberto, too, has his problems. His younger sister, Ana, was killed in a traffic accident when they were in their teens. In Dolores, the couple encounters two people. There's the cemetery groundsman, Huilo, who tends the graves and carves a list of all the town's dead on what looks like a tall, red pillar but is in fact one leg of an enormous chair Huilo has built so that when God returns to Earth, he'll have somewhere to rest. But the playwright simply doesn't have the love of language or the skill to evoke the feelings he wants to evoke. The script is full of clunkers. For the most part, the characters are ciphers, and the plot is paper-thin. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through December 17, Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed November 3.

Shadowlands. This is a dignified, classy play, but for the most part, oddly lifeless. Set in 1950s England, it begins as C. S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia and a series of deeply Christian books for adults, gives a lecture on the topic of suffering, speculating that it must be a force intended by God to shape and perfect us. Shadowlands is biographical, based on the relationship between Lewis and poet Joy Gresham, who died of bone cancer, although the script takes a couple of liberties with fact and chronology. As the play opens, Lewis is in his fifties and Gresham and her young son, Douglas, blow like a bracing wind into his fusty, ordered, donnish world of tea and muffins. Nonetheless, this act is very static. Lewis and Gresham become friends. They take walks together; they sip tea. We're hoping for witty or insightful repartee. Surely these two writers left behind some bon mots and insights worth stealing in their books and papers? But most of the dialogue is disappointingly earnest and predictable, and the characters simply aren't very sharply delineated. Presented by Bas Bleu through January 7, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed December 1.

Unmerciful Good Fortune. The central character in Unmerciful Good Fortune is a young woman named Fatima who believes she can see into other people's futures. As the play opens, she has been arrested for poisoning several customers -- including an eight-year-old girl -- at the fast food joint where she works. Her defense: She has seen the desperation of these people's lives and is saving them from still uglier futures. Dispensing with the services of a lawyer, Fatima demands to speak with a specific district attorney, Maritza -- a woman who spends her days struggling against the callous idiocy of her boss and her evenings tending to her dying mother, Luz. Fatima is a former gangbanger, manipulative, cruel and arrogant. But she's also capable of melting into tenderness. You can see her as one of the three Fates, snipping the thread of human life at will, or you can see her as a troubled, vulnerable child. Jackie Billotte plays the role with a fierce, dark brilliance. Unmerciful Good Fortune is not without flaws. Some of the scenes go on too long, some of the relationships strain credulity. But the play has genuine emotional depth and sweep. Presented by Firehouse Theater Company through December 17, John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place, Lowry, 303-562-3232. Reviewed December 8.

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