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Brief reviews of current shows

Something Is Rotten. Just as all the action in Hamlet hinges on an injunction by the ghost of Hamlet's father, everything that happens in Something Is Rotten is set in motion by a ghost -- in this case, the ghost of a pink-striped sock that insists that three performers mount a production of the Shakespeare play. Julius, the weirdly smiling, dim-witted but steel-willed owner of the sock, bullies two friends, Harold and George, into fulfilling the command. We never really know exactly who these men are or why they're on stage. George is clearly an actor -- or at least someone who wants to act -- but Julius and Harold are stumbling amateurs. They discuss their roles and argue about how to act them, bicker, shush each other and improvise when panicked. The show is as ingenious as it is low-tech, and a lot of intensely clever and hilarious things happen. Ophelia is played by a goldfish, which makes the Queen's line "Your sister's drowned, Laertes," particularly poignant. Polonius is a Teddy Ruxpin bear and Laertes a Tonka truck. Fortunately, the requisite catharsis-providing pity and terror aren't absent from this interpretation. The shrieks of grief and rage that rend the final scene would move a statue to tears -- albeit tears of laughter. It's clear from the pace of the show, the relaxed tension of the actors, that Buntport has mastered its medium. These guys don't have to hit you over the head with their actions or try to underline the cleverness of their inventions; they know exactly what they're doing. On an almost empty stage, using nothing but their minds, voices and bodies, along with a few props, they're making theater magic right in front of your eyes. Presented by Buntport Theater through February 2, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388. Reviewed September 14.

Splitting Infinity. Leigh Sangold is a Nobel-winning physicist who has devoted her life to the intoxicating joys of scientific discovery. Leigh's closest and oldest friend is a rabbi, Saul Lieberman. When they were in college, they almost fell in love, but there was no reconciling his down-to-earth humanism and her devotion to knowledge and abstraction. As the play opens, Leigh is celebrating her 49th birthday with Robbie, the 24-year-old post-doc with whom she's having an affair. He comes up with an idea: They should work together and use physics to disprove the existence of God. This is pretty implausible; it's hard to imagine a Nobel laureate seriously taking on a project this unscientific. Rabbi Lieberman is incensed by Leigh's activities: He knows she doesn't believe in God and feels she's desecrating everything he believes in. Although much discussion of science and philosophy ensues, the focus is more on Leigh's search for identity and her baffled, unfulfillable love for Saul. There are some good performances here, and somewhere inside playwright Jamie Pachino's thicket of words and ideas, there's a fascinating play. Presented by OpenStage Theatre through February 3, Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-221-6730, www.openstage.com. Reviewed January 11.

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