By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
A Body of Water. In Lee Blessing's play, two middle-aged people wake up one morning in a beautiful house near a lake — or perhaps the shimmering they glimpse through the windows comes from more than one lake or inlet; they're never quite sure. They have no idea who or where they are, or why they've awoken together. The couple doesn't seem unduly rattled by this, however, calmly speculating about whether they're married and whose house they're currently occupying. A young woman arrives wearing a jogging suit and bearing bagels. She seems to know the couple's tastes as well as their identities, and tells them that their names are Moss and Avis. But her answers to the rest of their questions are anything but helpful; she says she's their daughter and then says she isn't. She's sometimes affectionate, sometimes teasing, often contemptuous, and periodically downright vicious. As the plot unfolds, we realize the playwright may be playing tricks with time as well as memory. Perhaps what we're seeing isn't in sequence: What we think is the morning after may in fact be the morning before, or may be occurring weeks later. The tone of the play is ambiguous, too: You can't tell if it's a deep metaphysical exploration or a very highbrow murder mystery. A Body of Water is engrossing, but it has limitations. Moss and Avis are nice, educated people who'd be interesting if they had anything stored in their minds — but they don't — and they have no ability to change or develop over the course of the action. And as an intellectual puzzle, this play disappoints, but if you let yourself simply relax into the mood and mystery, you'll find it worthwhile. Presented by Modern Muse through February 24 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, 303-780-7836, www.modernmusetheatre.com. Reviewed February 7.
Closer. The four people in Patrick Marber's play keep switching partners — and it's never clear why. They fall passionately, declare their love, then bed-hop off, betraying each other with such frequency that sometimes it's hard to remember just who's with whom at any particular moment. And they don't do any of this with pleasure. The scene is London. Dan, an obituary writer who wants to be a novelist, meets Alice when she steps into the street without looking and gets hit by a taxi. Alice is a stripper, volatile and vulnerable, and while the two are seated on a bench in a hospital emergency room, they fall in love. Larry, a dermatologist, stops for a brief view of the gash on Alice's leg before moving on; he'll eventually become the fourth member of the quartet. The next scene occurs after Dan and Alice have spent a few happy years together. He's finally come up with a publishable novel, which happens to be about Alice. He arrives at the studio of photographer Anna to get his jacket photo taken, and promptly falls for her. This production, by a new Denver company, is solid and has moments of inspiration. Although the dialogue — brief lines that obscure meaning as much as they expose it — is bitingly funny, Closer isn't one of those fizzy romances in which the changing of sexual partners becomes a waltz. Unless it's a waltz macabre. With the possible exception of Alice, you're not charmed by the characters, and you don't empathize with them, either. But you can still feel the sadness, anger and bitterness beneath their actions, understand the way people hurt, exploit and even destroy each other. Presented by Uncorked Productions through February 23, Bindery/Space, 720 22nd Street, 1-877-UNCORK2, www.uncorkedproductions.org. Reviewed January 31.
The Last Five Years. This intimate two-person musical involves the breakup of a marriage. When Jamie and Cathy met in New York, he was an aspiring writer and she an actress. Success came for him fast, while she continued to inhabit the dreary, ego-pummeling world of auditions and summer stock — with predictable results for their relationship. The songs — solos, with one exception — reveal a triumphant Jamie noticing his effect on other women and fighting the desire to utilize it, with a sulky Cathy refusing to attend his publishing party. He resents her neediness and insecurity, she his arrogance and self-involvement. Playwright Jason Robert Brown has hit on an interesting device to make this relatively commonplace story more poignant and more complex: While Jamie relates events as they happened, Cathy reveals them backwards. At the very beginning, she weeps over Jamie's goodbye letter, and minutes later, he erupts onto the scene singing rapturously about the "shiksa goddess" he's just met. Chris Crouch and Shannan Steele are both terrific performers, brimming with energy, poised and charismatic, possessed of lovely, expressive voices. Crouch makes Jamie real and funny and quirky, and Steele is often touching as Cathy — though I wish both would avoid that awful, dissolving-into-self-pitying-tears style that's come to dominate singing in musicals these days. Still, this is an emotionally exuberant production, staged in a smooth, comfortable style, and enjoyable even though it's far from thought-provoking. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through June 29 at the Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed February 14.
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