By Show and Tell
By Byron Graham
By Jamie Siebrase
By Bree Davies
By Zoe Yabrove
By Zoe Yabrove
By Jamie Siebrase
By Emilie Johnson
Dixie's Tupperware Party. Dixie is a booze- and sex-addicted, trash-talking, child-neglecting ex-con from Alabama who holds Tupperware parties in her trailer, and she's invited you to this one.
Dixie's Tupperware Partyat the Galleria really
isa Tupperware party — you get a name tag and raffle number when you come in, and there are pens and catalogues on all the tables. Dixie, your hostess, greets you in high white heels and a crotch-skimming skirt, earrings swinging, red hair piled high. Collapsible bowls, punch and party setups, plastic jugs and ribbed mugs (uh-huh) gleam in shades of lime, blue, orange and purple on a table behind her; by the time she's through, you won't be able to look at a plastic storage container without giggling. Just the words "collapsible bowl" will set you off. Dixie is also Kris Andersson, an actor who realized he could make an actual living selling Tupperware and began hosting parties. As he worked, the character of Dixie developed. Andersson brought his show to New York's Fringe Festival in 2004, and it caught fire from there. This production is seriously dirty, and it's also one terrific evening. Dixie is a great character: She doesn't give an inch, but she's as appealing as she is wicked. And Andersson not only loves Dixie, but he loves Tupperware, too — and he's not being snarky about it. So no matter how much Dixie screws up her spiel or how many lewd jokes she makes about the uses to which you can put "the best plastic crap on the planet," there's a reverential quality to the way she fondles the goods that makes you actually want to buy them. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through January 2, Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org.
Don Juan in Hell. Four chairs, filled by four characters — Don Juan, Dona Ana, her father the Commander, and the Devil himself — all engaged in a long, long argument. It's an argument filled with wit, wisdom, humor, flashes of insight and pure Shavian contrarianism. As the action begins, Dona Ana has just arrived in hell, and she's quite peeved to realize it, given the conspicuous religiosity with which she lived her long life. Don Juan serves as her guide, and assures her that an eternity spent in hell is far more pleasurable than anything going on in heaven. His point is reinforced by the Devil, a jovial soul, and by the Commander, who is so bored with heaven that he's come to request a change of residence. The point of this essentially plotless play is a protracted discussion about just about everything on earth, including the ways in which humans spend their limited time. The Devil has a long and eloquent monologue about the violent uses to which man puts his intellect, resources and energy. Shaw uses Don Juan's scornful rebuttal to take digs at all his favorite whipping boys: politicians, businessmen, the English in general, and artists. Art is seductive, Don Juan admits, but it ultimately serves only to enslave men to women, whose job it is to birth the race and rule in the home. But despite his intellect and blistering wit, Don Juan's essential belief system is romantically woolly-headed. While the Devil advocates hedonism because he believes there's no such thing as human progress, Don Juan — who represents Shaw himself — argues for a kind of mystical evolution in which the human mind continues to develop in breadth and wisdom and ultimately transforms the human race. It's fascinating to watch these ideas zipping around the stage like little white Ping-Pong balls. And though you do occasionally feel a bit like a kid subjected to an overlong scolding, the overall effect is exhilarating. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through December 16, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com.
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, www.minersalley.com.
The Man Who Came to Dinner. Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart in 1939, The Man Who Came to Dinneris about an insufferable guest. Wealthy factory owner Earnest W. Stanley lives in a small Ohio town called Mesalia. As the play opens, his household is all a-twitter about their famous guest, writer and public wit Sheldon Whiteside, who, having slipped on the ice outside the front door and hurt his hip, will be staying with them for a while. But when he's wheeled out by a nurse in his wheelchair, Whiteside himself is far less pleased. "I may vomit," he observes to the hopeful and star-struck assembly. And then he proceeds to lay down the rules: Since he'll be working in the living room and the library, no one else can enter them for the duration of his stay. Nor can anyone use the phone. He hands Mrs. Stanley the menu for the lunch he'd like served to the five guests he's just invited, and informs Mr. Stanley that he'll be suing him for $150,000. And so Whiteside sets up court and carries on with his life, preparing for his famed radio addresses, receiving gifts that include an Egyptian mummy, calf's foot jelly, a box of penguins and a scientific experiment involving thousands of cockroaches. But he goes too far when he decides to destroy the budding romance between his secretary, Maggie Cutler, and local journalist Bert Jefferson. There are 23 characters in this play (played here by twenty actors), and people are always popping on to perform comic bits, toss off one-liners and serve as the butt of Whiteside's endless barrage of insults. Whiteside himself is one of those larger-than-life, swift-tongued 1930s wits — Noel Coward with more malice and quite a lot more girth. Much of the humor relies on his nastiness and name dropping. But to carry off a piece as stylized as this, you need actors with a lot of poise and moxie, and much of the acting in this production is at the level of good community theater. Presented by Spotlight Theatre Company through December 22, the John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place. Reviewed December 6.
Miracle on 34th Street. The songs in this show are workable but not inspired, and much of the script is taken directly from the 1947 movie of the same name that made little Natalie Wood a star. Though it feels odd in this day and age to hear romantic hero Fred address Doris, the woman he's coming to love, as a "dumb little dame," the story still has some charm and punch. Yes, you know cynical little Susan, who's been taught by her embittered divorced mother Doris not to entertain magical or romantic reveries, will be won over by Fred, the gallant Marine who lives next door, and later by Kris Kringle, the portly, white-bearded gentleman who insists he's the real Santa Claus. But it's still fun to watch it happen — and who doesn't want to believe that generosity and goodwill can overcome all obstacles, especially at Christmas? Erick Devine exudes kindliness and humanity as Kringle, and his rich baritone warms you to the soul. When he says he really is Santa Claus, you don't doubt it for a moment. And Lauren Shealy deploys a fine soprano as Doris. Director Gavin Mayer has found several wonderfully appealing youngsters for his cast: Regan Fenske is grave, serious and entirely professional as skeptical Susan; six-year-old Ashlyn Faith Williams is touching as Hendrika, a lonely Dutch adoptee whom Kringle addresses in her own language. As for Nate Kissingford's little Tommy, who innocently destroys his DA father's entire case against Kringle in the courtroom — you just want to squeeze the puddin' out of him, as the old folks used to say. Presented by the Arvada Center through December 23, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed December 6.
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, www.curioustheatre.org. 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, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed November 29.
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