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Brief reviews of current shows

Aphrodisiac. Playwright Rob Handel's inspiration is the affair between Congressman Gary Condit and intern Chandra Levy, which erupted into the media when Levy disappeared in 2001. Her body was discovered a year later; although suspicion clouded his career, Condit was never officially accused of murder. Aphrodisiacapproaches this story obliquely. Handel's congressman, Dan Ferris, and his mistress, Ilona Waxman, never appear on stage; instead, Ferris's son and daughter listen to the news, analyze the affair and speculate on who their father really is, role-playing in an attempt to heighten their understanding. Although this is to some extent a play of ideas -- and even more a play about play-acting -- Alma and Avery are real characters, products of a sadly dysfunctional family. Monica Lewinsky herself appears toward the end, as the siblings argue in a coffee shop; the fact that her presence doesn't remind us of a thousand snickering late-night jokes is a tribute both to Handel's playwriting and to Mare Trevathan's riveting performance in the role. When she describes how she wept on Clinton's chest after he refused to give himself fully by coming in her mouth -- and realized even as she wept that his attention was not on her but on his chair in the Oval Office -- we finally understand the tightness and intricacy of the sex-power knot. Under the hand of director Bonnie Metzgar, this is a wonderful evening of theater, an elegant, sure-footed production of a fascinating contemporary play. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 24, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curious theatre.org. Reviewed January 11.

Bad Dates. This play has the familiar feel of a long night spent with a girlfriend after she's suffered a breakup, one of those nights when you can offer nothing but a shared bottle of wine, anything sweet you have lurking in the fridge and a loving ear. Playwright Theresa Rebeck provides a script that's probably a good bit sharper and funnier than anything you and your girlfriend could come up with, however, and actress Diana Dresser makes a fine best friend, all vulnerability and confiding charm, with just a touch of pure craziness. Haley, a single mom, runs a trendy restaurant (duly baptized as such by the New York Times) that was once a money-laundering front for the Romanian mob. As the play opens, her primary concern is to get back into the dating scene after five dry years devoted to earning a living and caring for her daughter. Like most women in this position, she has bad dates. We, her collective best friend, see her preparing for them, and we're in on the aftermath -- which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening out. Presented by Modern Muse Theatre Company through February 25, Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, 303-780-7836, www.modernmusetheatre.com. Reviewed February 15.

Clue: the Musical. The pleasure of this Country Dinner Playhouse production of Clue: the Musical is that it boasts a truly outstanding cast. Which is good, since the music is serviceable rather than clever or melodious, and this is less a show than a big, cheerful game. Cutouts of the murder weapons -- noose, wrench, candlestick and so on -- line the theater walls; there are cards on the tables inviting the audience to guess the killer; the costumes are in brilliant primary colors. The dialogue is silly, but not as utterly inane as that of Nunsense, for example. Since there's no plot and you don't need to empathize with any of the characters, these performers get to strut their stuff in any posing, gesticulating, giggle-making way they can think up, while periodically unleashing terrific singing voices. The action does wear thin after a while, but the show ends on a note of good-humored hilarity. Presented by Country Dinner Playhouse through March 4, 6875 South Clinton Street, Greenwood Village, 303-799-1410, www.countrydinnerplayhouse.com. Reviewed February 1.

Crazy for You. George and Ira Gershwin were, without question, two of the most brilliant tune-meisters of American musical comedy, and in the early 1990s, playwright Ken Ludwig got the bright idea of writing a "new" Gershwin musical. He took familiar 1930s plot elements and created a knowing, affectionate book that both satirizes and pays homage to the musical-comedy genre. And then he grabbed fistfuls of those bloodstream-quickening Gershwin songs and scattered them like jewels along the story's path. Artistic director Michael J. Duran danced in the critically praised 1992 Broadway production of Crazy for You, and he re-creates some of Susan Stroman's choreographic magic here, including the long number that ends the first act and features all kinds of inventive movement as well as axes, hammers and human bodies used as musical instruments. Scott Beyette is a lithe, leaping, tapping wonder as Bobby, whose mother wants him to enter the family business but whose own ambition is to dance. Alicia Dunfee is an unexpected ingenue, perhaps a bit too experienced for Polly and less light on her feet than partner Beyette, but she brings her customary warmth and presence to the role. The voices are fine, and the cast and musicians talented and so enthusiastic that they simply sweep you into the fun. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through March 3, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed November 23.

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