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Capsule reviews of current shows.

Nickel and Dimed. As the thousands of high-schoolers who have been assigned to read Nickel and Dimed in the past few years know, author Barbara Ehrenreich set out to re-create the lives of the poor by attempting to survive on minimum-wage jobs herself — hotel maid, cleaning woman, waitress, nursing-home aide and Wal-Mart associate — for three months in three different cities. Joan Holden of the San Francisco Mime Troupe turned this book into a play that asks several essential questions: How do people survive on minimum wage? Are there certain economies and contrivances poor people utilize that the rest of us don't know about? We learn that those on the lowest end of the pay scale live in cheap, dirty motel rooms, with friends or family, with partners who may be abusive but whom they can't afford to leave, in their cars. Their diet frequently consists of whatever foods yield the most calories for the buck: hot dog buns, for example, or corn chips. They suffer chronic ailments for which they can't get medical care, and many are in constant pain. This OpenStage production works best where it expresses the irony and humor that animate Ehrenreich's book; the rest of the time, the action is unconvincing, the observations about poverty feel a bit didactic, and the actors seem too inexperienced to give their characters authenticity and heft. Still, in presenting Ehrenreich's ideas with sincerity and some charm, director R. Todd Hoven and his cast are performing an important service. Presented by OpenStage Theatre and Company through March 22, Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-221-6730, Reviewed March 6.

Starship Troy: Fame. By 8 p.m. the place is jammed. The audience looks young, some as young as high-schoolers, others in college; there are couples, gay and straight, and a scattering of older folk. Starship Troy is one of Buntport's informal efforts to create cheap, fun, accessible theater. It is a dramatized cartoon, each episode lasting about 45 minutes. The premise: A dump truck orbits space on a mission to clean things up. Its addled crew includes all the usual Buntport suspects: Erik Edborg, who for some reason has dryer-duct tubing sticking out of his front and who cuddles a white stuffed animal; cynical Hannah Duggan; Erin Rollman as an expressionless android (watching Rollman trying to remain expressionless is a comic feast); half-ape Brian Colonna; and Evan Weissman as something, well, something epicene and highly sexualized. An audience member volunteers as Ensign McCoy, who — in a tribute to South Park's Kenny, and perhaps to the Goon Show's Bluebottle before him ("You have deaded me again!") — gets killed in every show. This is throwaway theater in the best sense. If a line thuds to earth, no matter; it's gone as soon as it's said. If a piece of business is pure brilliance — too bad! It'll never be seen again, either. But what the hell, there's always another episode. Presented by Buntport Theater every Tuesday and Wednesday through May, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, Reviewed November 15.

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