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Capsule reviews of current shows

The Producers. How on earth can Boulder's Dinner Theatre, which does not have hundreds of thousands of dollars at its disposal, compete with the big, glitzy Broadway version of The Producers? Not with tech and design, obviously, nor the slickness of the big showstoppers. But this production has something that's missing from the big touring production: sheer exuberance, an exuberance that in many ways is closer to Mel Brooks's original impulse. The Producers tells the story of a Broadway producer who realized he could make more money from a flop than a hit and immediately sought out the worst script he could find: a tribute to Adolf Hitler. The idea first saw life as a 1968 movie, a movie in which Brooks stuck a fat, garlicky, Jewish thumb right into Hitler's eye. With the irrepressible Wayne Kennedy playing producer Max Bialystock and Scott Beyette as his bewildered but eventually ecstatic sidekick, Leo Bloom, the BDT cast puts the raucous, iconoclastic jump right back into the show. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through March 7, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed December 4.

Rabbit Hole. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is known for his absurdist humor, impossible characters, unexpected quirks. But Rabbit Hole is a serious and entirely conventional drama dealing with grief — perhaps the worst grief possible, the death of a child. Bereaved mother Becca is a rigid perfectionist, given to baking sophisticated treats. She has packed away photographs of Danny, the four-year-old son killed by a car when he ran into the street after the family dog; she has given away the dog. She seems to have everything under control as she folds Danny's little tops, pants and onesies for charity. She refuses to reminisce about him, and interrupts sharply when anyone else seems about to do so. Her husband, Howie, copes by going to a support group, but he, too, seems to be functioning all right. He's pleasant and affable with Izzy, Becca's sister, and with Becca's mother, Nat — who has also suffered the loss of a son, though under very different circumstances. But every now and then, Howie or Becca snaps, usually into uncontrollable rage. You have to applaud Lindsay-Abaire's resolate lack of sentimentality; the tone is set by Becca's self-control, in the face of which emotional effusions would be vulgar. Still, what's missing from this script is an imaginative leap. Even so, under the direction of Christy Montour-Larson, Curious has staged an impeccable production, with Rachel Fowler as a nicely understated Becca and Erik Sandvold as Howie. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 14, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed January 15.

Shining City. Playwright Conor McPherson is a poet of loneliness. In Shining City, a patient, John, visits a therapist, an ex-priest named Ian. John is trying to explain something that can't be explained — that he saw the ghost of his wife after she'd died in a traffic accident, a specific figure in a red coat, half hidden by a door. Throughout this recitation and those that follow, Ian is oddly detached; he doesn't bother with the empathetic prompts therapists usually use, though he is remarkably assiduous in anticipating John's needs, filling a water glass, gesturing toward a seat, proffering Kleenex. After the session, when Ian's girlfriend appears to ask why he's abandoned her and their baby, the gulf between the two is chilling. Eventually, we learn about the silences between John and his doomed wife, as well as something about Ian's own stifled proclivities. McPherson's language constantly attempts to communicate the ineffable, and his ghosts are an extension of this attempt: If there are no words to frame reality, it makes sense to resort to the supernatural. The characters in Shining City speak in stops and starts; they stutter and repeat, and John produces great waterfalls of words. But beneath all this, you hear a melancholy, hypnotic and eternal music. The actors — Josh Hartwell as Ian, Ken Street as John, and Laura Norman as Ian's girlfriend, Neasa — give breath and humanity to these complex and enigmatic characters. Their silences are as eloquent as the words they speak; we don't think of them as acting on stage, but simply as living and being in front of us. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through February 15, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed January 15.

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