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Greetings! The play begins with a fair amount of charm and humor, even if the basic plot is less than original: Andy Gorski has brought his girlfriend, Randi, to his Pittsburgh home to meet his very Catholic and conventional family — grumpy, alcoholic father Phil, anxious and unhappy mother Emily, and mentally challenged younger brother Mickey. Think Meet the Parents crossed with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and throw in a dash of Archie and Edith Bunker. But even if the characters aren't fully fleshed out and the jokes are a bit thin, the acting is strong, and the first act flies by. The affectionate interplay between Andy and the brother for whom he's saved his airline package of honey-roasted nuts and with whom he wrestles uninhibitedly on the floor is appealing, and Phil's constant growling irritation, his endless battles with the house's electricity, are pretty funny. But then the angelic being shows up — and, unhappily, he's a complete bore, provider of minor and meaningless miracles, utterer of the kind of advice about life you'd expect to find in a Hallmark card. He helps Randi make peace with the death of her little sister and explains to Emily that changing your life is as simple as changing your actions day by day. Taken as a whole, though, and perhaps with an eggnog or two to help it along, this is a pleasant holiday offering. Presented by Miners Alley through December 23, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044,

Time Stands Still. For all but a small sliver of society in the United States, wars are only a distant rumbling. But for those who have experienced the conflicts — soldiers, journalists, refugees — they are devastating. The images of war engrave themselves indelibly on the brain and can rip apart the fabric of an entire life. This truth lies at the heart of Donald Margulies's searching and unsettling play Time Stands Still. The primary protagonists are two journalists who have covered some of the world's hottest war zones. Sarah, a photographer wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, has returned to the U.S. almost literally in pieces, both physical and emotional. Her long-term lover, James, is at their apartment to welcome her. A reporter, he left Iraq while Sarah was still in the hospital in Germany because of a breakdown of his own, and he is determined to bring her back to health. But Sarah is not an easy patient. Richard, her photo editor, arrives, accompanied by his much younger girlfriend, Mandy, and Sarah can barely mask her contempt. When the two women discuss the photographs on Sarah's laptop, Mandy begins to weep over a shot of a mother with her horribly burned baby. She has touched on a profound question: Both Sarah and James sometimes wonder whether recording war scenes does any good or whether it's a kind of voyeurism, a commodification of human pain. But the play is not didactic. It's smart, multi-layered, absorbing and wryly funny, and the issues it raises are explored through the lives of four very real and interesting people. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through December 15, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, Reviewed November 8.

When We Are Married. Set in 1907 in Yorkshire, where J.B. Priestley grew up, When We Are Married focuses on three status-conscious and conventional middle-class couples who were married in the same ceremony 25 years before and have reconvened to celebrate and pose for a commemorative photo. Also on hand is Gerald, a young man who's courting the niece of one of the husbands, as well as a couple of servants — a drunken, hostile charwoman and the far less prickly and generally ignored teenage maid. A reporter and a mouthy photographer intrude on the action now and then, as does a free-spirited tootsie who once had a flirtation with one of the husbands at Blackpool. The plot is flimsy. The couples discover that because of a minor technicality, their marriages aren't legal, and this gives them a chance to re-evaluate their relationships. Timid Herbert Soppitt is routinely ordered about by his shrewish wife, Clara; Annie Parker has grown tired of Albert, her stingy popinjay of a husband; and while the Helliwells appear to enjoy an occasional moment of communication, their marriage seems held together more by habit than anything warmer. Given the time and place they live in, however, these folks don't have the option of divorcing and creating entirely new lives — although we really want them to, because the script hints at possibilities of true love and transformation with just a little partner-swapping. The production is sumptuous, and the set and costumes (by Vicki Smith and David Kay Mickelsen, respectively) deserve a round of applause all on their own. Still, the entire enterprise feels a bit tired and dated, and you can't help feeling that the Denver Center will never fill its seats or entice a new generation of viewers with period pieces like this. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through December 16, Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Reviewed November 29.

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