By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
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 Comedy of Errors. An early play based on a Roman comedy, Plautus's The Menaechmi, The Comedy of Errors utilizes a lot of plot devices that were hoary four centuries ago — though, since this is Shakespeare, they're used deftly. As the play opens, Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse has been captured in Ephesus, a rival city. He faces death unless he can come up with a hefty fine. But the Duke of Ephesus prevails on him to tell his story, and naturally, it's a killer: A son, Antipholus, who happens to be a twin, was lost at sea together with his mother and a servant, Dromio, also a twin; the second twin, named for the one lost, is still living in Syracuse, along with the second servant. We soon learn that the lost Antipholus has actually settled in Ephesus with his wife, Adriana, and his Dromio; soon his Syracusan twin arrives with Syracusan Dromio. Many mix-ups ensue, with the Dromios sent on all kinds of errands and reporting almost invariably to the wrong Antipholus, and Antipholus of Syracuse being mistaken by Adriana for her husband — while he's falling for her sister, Luciana. Of course, everything works out in the end. Unfortunately, this production seems designed to accommodate every piece of shtick thought up by any and every actor during the rehearsal process. If someone says horse, you know a loud neigh will follow; lines funny enough in themselves get acted out phrase by phrase, and there's a plethora of ridiculous walks. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 11, Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado at Boulder, 303-492-0554, www.coloradoshakes.org. Reviewed July 21.
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