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Capsule reviews of shows

My Old Lady. The play begins like a clash-of-cultures comedy of manners as Mathias Gold, a penniless, middle-aged American, enters the stylish Paris apartment he's inherited from his father and learns that the place comes with its previous owner, who is entitled to live on the premises until her death. Madame Mathilde Giffard is 94 and has lived a life of culture and adventure that includes a long-term affair with Mathias's father. In her mind, this was a romantic and magnificent liaison, but Mathias takes the revelation badly, sinking deeper and deeper into drink and self-pity. The tone of the plays changes. Now we're witnessing an examination of the meaning of love, the effects of private choices in the world and the tainted legacy passed from father to son and mother to daughter. As Matthias begins to have feelings for Mathilde's daughter Chloe, he realizes that she, too, is profoundly damaged. My Old Lady doesn't moralize, and you find your sympathies swinging back and forth among the three protagonists. This is one of the best things Miners Alley has done. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through October 27, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden. 303-935-3044, Reviewed October 18.

Thom Paine (based on nothing). Will Eno's play is a strange, hour-and-some-long monologue. It contains some passages about a sad little boy and others about a failed love affair, and some viewers have seen it as the story of the monologuist's (pain-filled) life, told with much twisting and indirection. But it doesn't seem that there's actually anyone in front of us on the almost bare stage. Although actor Erik Tieze is up there saying words, he doesn't feel human. He comes across as a husk, a ghost, a mocking, ever-changing, constantly self-inventing presence. He leads us through dozens of familiar tropes, ideas and images, picking them up, distorting them, tossing them away. He prompts us to feel something — pleasure, empathy, sadness — and then mocks us for feeling it. In one of his stories, the little boy is drawing in a puddle with a stick when he sees his beloved dog accidentally electrocuted. Later, the child is stung by a swarm of bees. Although the pain is excruciating, he doesn't associate it with the insects. He thinks they have arrived to help him, and rubs them against his skin. We feel compassion, even as we register the implausibility of the story. And he has a thought to add about childhood suffering: "Isn't it wonderful how we never recover?" he says. The bottom line? Thom Pain is brilliant. The language is beautiful in the exact clean, precise, musical way that Samuel Beckett is beautiful. And Tieze's performance is mesmerizing, utterly dynamic and wonderfully precise and controlled. Presented by Modern Muse Theatre Company through October 28, Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, 303-780-7836. Reviewed October 18.

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