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Brief reviews of current shows

The Servant of Two Masters. Carlo Goldoni created the scenario behind The Servant of Two Mastersin 1745 for a famed commedia dell'arte troupe, and eventually wrote down a script that's primarily pure silliness. This is the story of Truffaldino, servant to Beatrice, who is traveling dressed as her own brother after the latter's death at the hands of her lover, Florindo. She has come to Venice to persuade the father of her brother's betrothed, Clarice, to give her Clarice's dowry, which she will use to reunite with Florindo. When Florindo turns up in Venice, unaware that Beatrice is there or that she's in disguise, Truffaldino offers to become his servant, too, reasoning that two masters will mean double pay for him and twice as much food. Naturally, all kinds of confusion follows, with letters, money and challenges flying, usually delivered to the wrong recipient. There are contemporary references scattered throughout director Scott Schwartz's production, and while the costumes are gaudily eighteenth-century, they're accessorized with things like modern high-tops. All of the acting is broad and farcical, punctuated with many bits and shticks. Some of these seem trite, but others are very funny. In all, this makes for a pleasant-enough diversion. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 18, Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado, Boulder, 303-492-0554, www.coloradoshakes.org. Reviewed July 12.

Sista's and Storytellers. This is not a play, and it's not exactly a cabaret act, either. It's sort of a cross between a slumber party and a church service, as a group of women who sang together as children in a choir called the Heavenly Voices come together for a reunion. They drink a little, nibble a little, discuss their romances and discover that friendship is a great healer. And also that any support friends can't provide will be supplied by Jesus Christ. The dialogue is vague and general, the tech minimal and the acting broad, but the evening is filled with music and song, and the voices of the six performers — though distorted and overmiked — provide every reason you'll ever need for a trek to the theater. Presented by the Black Box in the New Denver Civic Theatre, Thursdays through August 30, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-309-3773, www.sistasandstorytellers.com. Reviewed June 14.

The Sound of Music. Even in this excellent production, The Sound of Musicremains pure treacle, with one-dimensional characters, an unconvincing plot and an oddly sugary view of the rise of Nazism. Some of the songs are very pretty — the title song, for instance, as well as "Climb Every Mountain," "I Must Have Done Something Good" and the nuns' beautiful chants. But it doesn't help that they're so over-familiar, and that other numbers , "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "So Long, Farewell" — are just plain icky. Scott Beyette, who directs, has cast the show well, though, and there are many sweet and appealing voices. As for the necessary plethora of adorable children, each comes across as individual and interesting, and not one is cloying, self-conscious or too cute. If any production could make me like The Sound of Music, this is it. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through August 31, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 28.

The Taffetas: A Musical Journey Through the Fabulous Fifties. With the figure of Senator Joseph McCarthy looming over the American landscape, the 1950s were anything but fabulous, as the full title of The Taffetasasserts. This is a pre-packaged, lightweight, no-calories, go-down-easy sort of production, a cheap-to-produce moneymaker with no artistic or intellectual ambitions. But putting all this aside is surprisingly easy to do. The costumes are perfect, the choreography appealing. The songs range from silly to interesting to really pretty, and — most important — the four women in the cast are charming and talented. According to what evanescent plot line there is, these women are sisters from Muncie, Indiana, who are performing on a television program in New York and hoping to snare a slot on The Ed Sullivan Show. The singing is punctuated by genuine television commercials of the era, including the rhythmically percolating coffeepot that sold America on Maxwell House. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through September 16, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed June 21.

Three Viewings. "Tell-Tale" is the first of the three monologues — each of them a negotiation with the dead —that make up Jeffrey Hatcher's Three Viewings. It's an homage to Edgar Allen Poe's famous horror story "The Telltale Heart," in which the protagonist murders an old man, then is driven to madness because he cannot stop the steady muffled beating of his victim's heart from sounding in his ears. The horror in "Tell-Tale" is muted and gentle, however. Emil, a funeral director, muses about the real-estate agent he loved in secret for many years. True to the title, that still-beating heart does indeed turn up, in a completely unexpected way. The second speaker, in "The Thief of Tears," is Mac, a raunchy, tough-talking woman who makes a living stealing jewelry from corpses. Finally, in "Thirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti," we meet a dignified middle-class widow who learns after her husband has died that he was in thick with the Mafia, cheated many people and left her with more than a million dollars' worth of debt. The writing in this third piece is more satiric and less overtly emotional than in the other two monologues, but the overall script is mordantly witty, entertaining without being shallow — and director Terry Dodd does it justice. Presented by Crossroads at Five Points Theater through August 4, 303-832-0929, www.denvercrossroads.com. Reviewed July 19.

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