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Cats. There's not much of a plot to Cats. You meet the Jellicles, with their cheerful faces and bright black eyes, who dance "under the light of the Jellicle moon"; the Ming-vase-smashing cat burglars, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer; fat, elegant, gentleman's club-haunting Bustopher Jones; and contrary-minded Rum Tum Tugger. The show's emotional core resides with battered street cat Grizabella — once a beauty, now doddering and shunned by the others. When we're told at the beginning by wise Old Deuteronomy that tonight one of all the cats will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer — whatever that is — there's not a lot of suspense about who it will be. Along the way, you get insight into the naming of cats (turns out every cat needs three names), and also how to address a cat: "Before a Cat will condescend/To treat you as a trusted friend/Some little token of esteem/Is needed like a dish of cream." And the music and lyrics are as delicious as a saucer of cream, of course. This is Boulder's Dinner Theatre's second go at Cats, and though it's very like the 2004 production, it's been strengthened in a lot of small ways that make a very big difference. Perhaps most important, the cast features a few notable new dance talents, and there's something to catch and hold your attention at every moment as you confront a moving frieze of kitties cavorting, hissing, twitching and cleaning their own and each others' faces. The BDT's entire cast and crew approach this production with so much energy and enthusiasm that they've made it new again. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 24, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 2.

Chasing Manet. Every year, director Terry Dodd finds a play perfectly suited to the historic lobby of the Barth Hotel and stages it as a benefit for Senior Housing Options, an organization that provides humanistic, caring homes for indigent seniors in several facilities around the state — the Barth being one. His past choices have included The Hot L Baltimore, a tender and tart evocation of the life of a group of misfits and dreamers gathered in a hotel lobby, and Steve Martin's hyper-clever and very entertaining Picasso at the Lapin Agile. But though this year's choice, Chasing Manet, is worth seeing for the excellent acting and perceptive direction, it's a pretty dopey play, with dialogue that sounds like pure Oprah. In her eighties and blind, Catherine Sargent has been committed to a nursing home by her son, Royal, and she's pretty pissed about it. Catherine is the cousin of American portraitist John Singer Sargent and herself a famous painter whose work is in the permanent collection of several prestigious galleries; she's also a Boston Brahmin with enough money to pay for first-class passage on the Queen Elizabeth II when she so desires. But playwright Tina Howe's control of tone is so tenuous that it's hard to figure out if Catherine really is all these things or is simply deluded. Into her unhappy life comes a new roommate, the moonily smiling Rennie, who's in the early stages of dementia, talks frequently to her long-dead husband, Hershel, and — naturally, given the conventionality of Howe's plotting — is Jewish to Catherine's high WASP, which allows for a few gentle jokes about their cultural differences. Catherine eventually figures out that, given her still-functioning brain and Rennie's still-functioning eyesight, the two of them can team up for an escape. They'll go to Paris, she decides, and view the work that most inspired her own: Manet's "Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe." All of the performances are solid, but even this very adept cast can't do much with the material. Presented by Senior Housing Options through August 13, 1514 17th Street, 303-595-4464, www.seniorhousingoptions.org. Reviewed July 14.

The Divine Sister. The Divine Sister features some of Denver's most talented actors, reliable creators of deep and memorable characters in artistically ambitious venues — and all of them having the time of their lives here, hamming, capering and slamming home the cheesiest jokes imaginable. The insanely over-the-top script is by Charles Busch, and it's a tribute to nun and convent movies, everything from Agnes of God to Doubt, with a dash of The Da Vinci Code thrown in for good measure. The plot concerns a Mother Superior trying to keep her convent financially afloat while dealing with Agnes, a hysterically religious young postulant; Sister Acacius, the perpetually horny sports coach; a filmmaker who wants to record Agnes's ecstasies; and Sister Walburga, a mysterious nun from Germany. Mother Superior approaches Mrs. Levinson, a rich Jewish widow who happens to be an atheist, in search of a donation and, in the course of her unsuccessful solicitation, begins a chain of discoveries about her own life. The dialogue is full of spot-on gags: Agnes sees a saint's face in a pair of urine-stained BVDs; Mother Superior is writing a book called The Middle Ages: So Bad?; and there's talk of a little-known Catholic sect based on the doctrine of Jesus's neglected sister, the Divine Joyce. All of the performers work well together as an ensemble — kept, if not in check, then at least in a consistent comic universe by Nick Sugar's tight, clean direction. Each line of dialogue gets its due, each gag is skillfully timed and encapsulated. Add the ridiculous costumes of Kevin Copenhaver (Sister Walburga's mighty headdress is a highlight, but there's strong competition from Mrs. Levinson's ghastly pantsuit) and the funky, cozy, edge-of-nasty charm of the Avenue Theater, and you've got yourself a party. Presented by the Avenue Theater through July 30, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 23.

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