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Capsule reviews of shows

My Name Is Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since her death in Gaza in 2003, when the 23-year-old was run over by an Israeli soldier as she attempted to prevent the bulldozing of a Palestinian home. But Corrie was more than just a symbol; she was a genuinely unique young spirit. This play was put together by English actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner from Corrie's journals and e-mails; it's clear that the world lost a lot when it lost this strong, individual voice. Much of the power of this production stems from the fact that you can't separate what you're seeing on stage from what you know —- that this marvelous young woman, who spoke of death and hope in the same breathless moment, would die a cruel, violent death. "Love you. Really miss you," she wrote in a letter to her mother. "I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside." With her graceful hands and gentle dignity, Julie Rada perfectly embodies the character of Rachel. Director Brian Freeland gives us just enough light to provide a clear view of Rada's face, and she pitches her voice just loud enough to be heard comfortably, but you still have to lean in a little to catch everything. Along with the simplicity of the set, this restraint adds to the power of the evening. Presented by Countdown to Zero through November 17, Bindery/space, 770 22nd Street, 720-938-0466, Reviewed October 4.

Third. The play tells the story of Laurie Jameson, a feminist scholar and the first woman ever to achieve tenure at a prestigious liberal arts college. After a lecture on King Lear, in which she explains that Goneril and Regan are the play's true heroes, Lear a representative of the repressive patriarchal system and Cordelia a sentimental simpleton, she's asked a question by a student who seems to represent everything she's spent her life fighting: a cheerful, white male athlete named Woodson Bull III (or Third, as he likes to be called), whom she immediately categorizes as a young George W. Bush. When this kid eventually produces a brilliant paper, she assumes it's plagiarized and hauls him before an academic honors committee. But the paper is Third's own; he is vindicated and Laurie shamed. Unfortunately, the plot is utterly unconvincing. It strains credulity that a twenty-year-old has the stuff to come up with a publication-worthy theory on a play that's been dissected by some of the best minds in the world. Besides, even though Laurie's own reading of Lear is dumb, Third's counter-interpretation is even dumber. Leftists can be as self-righteous and bullying as rightists, but Laurie goes beyond that into one-dimensional caricature — a woman who is as angered by a sexist word as by the invasion of Iraq. Third raises crucial issues -- not only the dark side of feminism, but mother-daughter conflict, the meaning of life in the face of death — but never explores them in any depth. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through October 20, Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Reviewed October 4.

You Can't Take It With You. Penelope Sycamore writes plays because someone once left a typewriter on the doorstep. Her husband, Paul, makes fireworks in the basement, assisted by Mr. DePinna, a tradesman who, having come to the house several years earlier, never left. Daughter Essie is a candy-maker and aspiring ballerina, married to Ed, who plays the xylophone. Grandpa Martin Vanderhof stopped working decades ago because work left him unfulfilled, and he now collects snakes. The only conventional member of the family is daughter Alice, who has fallen in love with Tony, the son of the wealthy, upper-crust Kirbys. What we have here is your basic clash-of-values, guess-who's-coming-to-dinner conflict. There are some funny moments in this Pulitzer-winning play, but overall the Sycamores simply aren't as heartwarming as they seem to think they are. You Can't Take It With You was written at the height of the Depression, and it represents the kind of fizzy escapist fantasy that lots of people craved at the time — though it's a rich man's fantasy, twit humor at its apex. Among the reasons to see this mildly funny but entirely forgettable production are Randy Moore's shrewd, funny, calculating Grandpa and Kathleen M. Brady, who brings a gorgeous blooming vitality to the role of the Grand Duchess Olga. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through October 20, the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Reviewed October 11.

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