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Present Laughter. You obviously can't cast Noel Coward himself as the protagonist in Present Laughter, though he did write the play in the spirit of self-parody. Nor, if you're in Colorado, can you find actors with the plummy English accents his dialogue requires. So you might as well decide to make the evening your own and tart it up with all kinds of absurd and anachronistic tricks. The results at Miners Alley are actually bright, smart and entertaining. At the play's center is Gary Essendine, a famous and self-adoring actor who, despite acting like a petulant child most of the time, is actually a master manipulator. On the eve of a tour in Africa, he has to deal with a couple of seductive women wandering his apartment in silk pajamas and a demented young playwright who lectures him on the frivolity of his work in theater. Orchestrating almost every act of his life is his level-headed ex-wife, Liz, who's still determined to take care of him even though they no longer have the slightest sexual interest in each other. Director Richard H. Pegg sets the action in the 1980s, and doesn't particularly trouble himself with the contradictions this causes. The play's language remains Coward's (for the most part!), and the lifestyle and theater scene it portrays is pure early twentieth century. But predatory temptress Joanna rises from the murk of America's Deep South, and the interpolated last scene simply rips apart the genteel fabric. Ultimately, this mix of style and vulgarity works — both because it's so carefully orchestrated and because Pegg understands exactly when he's paying homage to a venerable tradition and when he's crazily and flat-footedly upending it. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through February 12, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, Reviewed January 12.

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