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Hot + Wax. The floor is marked out like a Pacman game. On the opposite wall from where I sit, a screen shows a game of Super Mario Bros. in process; right above my head — if it fell, it would crack my skull in two — there's another screen carrying a video football game. Other screens, big and little, are scattered around; one seems to dictate the action, and every now and then it buzzes obnoxiously and a recorded voice suggests, "Please select another level." An audience member gets up to oblige. Below, and to my left, a man sprawls on a rug in what feels like a cozy, messy entertainment nest. In the far corner, I see a half-built papier-mâché cow or perhaps a bull. Hot + Wax is a satire on the business environment, the overweening greed of the corporate elite that sent the world spinning into recession. Lines of soulless men and women in dark suits and carrying briefcases form and re-form around a ladder; the people sometimes bounce up and down or perform backwards somersaults. The boss is Knossos, aka Minos, the mythic king whose wife fell in love with a beautiful snow-white bull and who had famed inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus design a wooden cow for her to hide inside so that the bull could mount her. Also central to the story are the wings of wax and feather designed by Daedalus, with which father and son took flight. Icarus, as everyone remembers, soared too close to the sun, the wax melted, and he fell into the sea. The parallel between Icarus's over-reaching and that of the financial industry is at the core of this piece. In political terms, the dialogue can be thumpingly obvious. But the images are often brilliant, the staging daring and disciplined, and the entire phenomenon well worth your attention. Presented by the LIDA Project through October 23, Bindery | Space, 2180 Stout Street, 720-221-3821, Reviewed October 7.

The Ladies Man. The Ladies Man is adapted by Charles Morey from a farce by Feydeau. Dr. Hercule Molineaux is married to Yvonne, a woman twenty years younger than himself, and he finds himself unable to make love to her for a wonderfully trivial, silly and essentially affectionate reason. He has thoughts of straying, but thinks better of it. This bumbling little lapse forces him to spend a night on a park bench in the rain, arousing Yvonne's suspicions and ultimately setting up a chain of misunderstandings, identity confusions and sexual double entendres that involve an amiable patient with a pronounced lisp; Yvonne's gorgon of a mother; and a female patient who prances through the action, pops up at inopportune moments and courts both Hercule and danger in the form of her large, jealous and short-tempered Prussian brute of a husband. Trying to keep order and sort things out is the cheeky male servant, Etienne, and there's also a saucy maid with a secret. Morey has done a nice job of communicating Feydeau's wit and tone. He's also worked out a plot that moves faster and faster by the minute, and in which every piece must click into place as satisfactorily as a key turning in a well-oiled lock. The casting is excellent, and, funny as they are, none of the performances devolves into caricature. The funniest? John Arp as Hercule. The character may be a two-dimensional stage convention, but Arp makes him so cuddly and crazy, so teddy-bearish, that you find yourself rooting for him and hoping he'll find his way back to Yvonne's arms — and, once there, refrain from doing anything stupid. Presented by Creede Repertory Theatre through October 31, Black Box Theatre, Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, Reviewed October 14.

The 39 Steps. This show is uninhibitedly silly — a take-off on a 1930s Hitchcock film, which itself was based on a novel by John Buchan. The plot didn't make much sense in the movie — something to do with an attempt by foreign spies to steal British air defense secrets — and it makes even less sense in this farcical comedy by Patrick Barlow, who takes Hitchcock's signature themes and devices and translates them to the stage, employing four actors to play dozens of parts. The action begins when Richard Hannay, one of those suave Hitchcock heroes, confesses his ennui and decides to go to the movies. Pulled instantly into the world of 1930s film noir, he finds himself in a music hall, watching the act of a puppet-like Mr. Memory. Shots ring out. A beautiful woman with a heavy accent appears. Hannay takes her home and feeds her haddock. She tells him she's in danger and he scoffs, but then she directs him to look out the window. Sure enough, two men are skulking beneath a lamppost. In the morning, the woman staggers out of the bedroom, collapses on top of Hannay and dies — but not before providing a cryptic clue. So now he's on the run, suspected of murder, and also determined to solve the mystery. The actors seem to be having a ball: Everyone's timing is impeccable, and the antics are a hoot. If you're looking for an alternative to serious discussions, step right up to The 39 Steps. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through November 14, Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Reviewed October 7.

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