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Capsule reviews of current shows

The Skin of Our Teeth. It isn't strange that in 1942 a major American playwright would be worrying about the possible extinction of humanity and pondering what it would take to save the human race, but it is odd that Thornton Wilder chose to do it in a comedy. Odder still, The Skin of Our Teeth doesn't feel at all dated. As the cheeky maid, Sabrina, and the Antrobus family — along with their pets, a small dinosaur and a sweet-natured woolly Mammoth — worry about a wall of ice moving slowly and threateningly toward their New Jersey house, we in the audience are surely thinking about the world's vanishing ice caps and shrinking rivers. Wilder's play gives us three earth-threatening catastrophes: the ice age, then Noah's flood and, finally, an unnamed seven-year war. The play's huge events are refracted through the lens of conventional suburban America, with all kinds of anachronisms and parachronisms prancing through the text, and Antrobus and his wife (her first name is apparently "Mrs.") play entirely conventional domestic roles. Still, the strength and longevity of their marriage represent the bedrock on which the world can be rebuilt again and again. This is a gutsy choice for the Aurora Fox, and despite a few overly-twitchy performances at the periphery of the action, the company pulls it off with honor, in large part due to the depth of John Arp's performance as Antrobus. Presented by the Aurora Fox through May 10, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 303-739-1970, www.aurorafox.org. Reviewed April 16.

Sunsets and Margaritas. Jose Cruz Gonzalez's play is so energetic, jolly and good-natured, and presents such an appealing political and familial viewpoint, that it seems coldhearted not to like it, like kicking away a friendly puppy as it darts at your feet. But this world premiere commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre Company is filled with unfunny jokes and plot turns: comic bits repeated too often, too many people fainting dead away, too many scenes in which a hyperventilating character breathes into a paper bag. And paterfamilias Candelario spends an unconscionable amount of time in his underpants. Why? Because a man in underpants is always funny, right? The plot concerns the attempts of Candelario's son to place him in a retirement community, despite a cultural tradition that requires family members to take care of each other, and involves lots of arguing and a slew of ball-breaking appearances by various mythic and folkloric characters. Director Nicholas C. Avila has encouraged a quivering, over-the-top acting style that often becomes tooth-grindingly unwatchable and does no favors at all to the lightweight script. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through May 16, Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. (Find the complete review at westword.com.)

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