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Art. Yasmina Reza's cool, witty, much-celebrated and much-performed play is ostensibly about art, but it's more about friendship. At the center of the action is an all-white painting, purchased by Serge, a dermatologist, for a huge sum of money. Perhaps he feels a genuine affinity for the piece, perhaps he's a vain poseur impressed by the artist's fame, perhaps he's just attempting to re-create and redefine himself: The characters and their issues aren't that clearly delineated in the script. All this is intensely irritating to his old friend Marc, who finds Serge pretentious and the painting a piece of shit. The third member of the trio is neurotic Yvan. When he's with Marc, he agrees that Serge's purchase is ridiculous; when he's with Serge, he says he finds all kinds of nuance in the thing; when he's with both his friends — well, sparks fly, and he has no idea how to handle them. Art is very clever and sometimes almost profound, though the emotions it arouses tend to dissipate fairly soon after you've left the theater. Still, it's absorbing to watch, and you find yourself thinking fairly hard about what your friends mean to you. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through October 24,1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, Reviewed September 16.

Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Horse and Man. To an exotic beat that sounded rather like Ravel's "Bolero," a group of robed people rode white horses through misty silver light, the white-lit outline of trees behind them. They moved slowly, the horses crossing, turning, circling and, for several breathtaking minutes, side-stepping in perfect unison. At one point, as the troupe faced front and moved forward, riders and their white steeds in complete harmony, it felt as if they were coming toward us through the mists of history — from King Arthur's England perhaps, pacing quietly through centuries of myth and fairy tale and into the grape-soda-scented circus tent where we sat. Cavalia is a sensory experience, a mix of still images, video, music and haunting song. It's the creation of Normand Latourelle, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, and it shares with Cirque the knack for evoking the transcendent and magical without telling a specific story. The beginning is slow, and this is at least partly deliberate, because Latourelle has something in mind beyond just creating an amazing show. He wants to celebrate the longstanding bond between horses and humans, to draw our attention to the animals' gentleness and power. And so the show begins with video of a mare giving birth, the foal, bewildered and still bloody, trying to rise to its feet, falling, and finally succeeding. Yes, Latourelle seems to be saying, many wondrous things will happen over the course of this evening, but nothing as wondrous as the mere fact of this creature's existence. That's a point he proves with another tour-de-force segment, Grande Liberte, in which Sylvia Zerbini works with nine horses — unbridled and completely unrestrained — while guiding them with her voice, body and presence. You don't need the program's assurance that the Cavalia horses are well-treated; you can see it in their trust and general demeanor. Extended through October 31, Pepsi Center parking lot, 866-999-8111, Reviewed September 30.

The House of the Spirits. The power of The House of the Spirits, playwright Caridad Svich's take on Isabel Allende's celebrated novel, lies in the accumulation of images, actions and passionate words. Consider the scenes separately, and they often appear overblown or melodramatic. But put them together, and the powerful story moves you. Allende's uncle, the democratically elected president of Chile, was overthrown in 1973 in a bloody coup aided by the United States; years of terror followed, and thousands of Chileans were imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Allende's novel isn't a factual account, but her intergenerational story is shaped by these somber events. Svich frames the action with the post-coup torture of Alba, the youngest member of the family. The first scene takes place in the torture chamber, and the script returns to it again and again. Alba has pored over the notebooks of her grandmother, Clara, a woman gifted with second sight, and she becomes our narrator, telling the family's story. Her grandfather Esteban Trueba, who married Clara after the death of her beautiful sister Rosa, was a cruel and greedy landowner, a rapist and a hater of the Allende government. He disowned his own daughter when she fell in love with a socialist. Now history has turned on itself like a snake eating its own tail, and his greed and violence have been visited on his grandchild. And yet — miraculously — the relationship between Trueba and Alba endures. As Trueba, John Hutton anchors the production, transforming from a young suitor to an enfeebled old man as we watch. Franca Sofia Barchiesi's charm and physical grace embue the chilling events on stage with warmth, and there are many other fine performances, some in small roles. But there's less focus on the individual players here than on the enduring bonds between the women and the unfolding of a complex emotional and historical tapestry. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through October 23, Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Reviewed October 14.

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