Bright Ideas. Bright Ideas is about a couple who will do anything to get their toddler into the best kindergarten in town. This could be a vacuous sitcom premise, but for the most part it's attacked with savage humor, leavened by moments of dazed empathy. Genevra and Joshua were nice enough people, after all, before cultural pressure and their own concept of what good parenting required drove them to insanity. The couple's only son, Matt, was signed up for the Bright Ideas school on the day of his birth. As the play opens, he's almost four, and first on the waiting list. By the end of the play, Genevra is knee-deep in blood and Joshua is a drunk, mad, sleepwalking mess (references to Macbeth are intentional). The story is told in a series of wickedly cartoonish scenes, and it makes for a hilarious evening of theater. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 21, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curiousATacoma.com. Reviewed January 15.

Fucking A. Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has set Fucking A in a bleak dystopia where Hester Smith, who does the hated and necessary work of providing abortions, is branded like Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne with a large red A -- except that Smith's brand, unlike Hester's, continually seeps and reeks. Smith has been condemned to her profession as penance for a crime committed by her son. When he was very small, hunger drove him to steal food from the rich couple she worked for. Now he's in prison, and she's trying to earn his freedom. As the years pass, his list of crimes grows endlessly, and she can never earn enough. This is a cold-eyed and amoral world in which misery is so universal that no one has time for such niceties as reason and compassion, and a knife drawn across a throat can be an act of love. The rich exploit the poor; the poor hate the rich; there's no such thing as justice, and anything at all can be a crime -- including "hanging upside down in public." The LIDA Project has done well by this extraordinary play, and Lisa Mumpton brings a powerful sense of conviction to the pivotal role of Hester. Presented by the LIDA Project through February 21, 2180 Stout Street, 303-282-0466, www.lida.org. Reviewed January 29.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! Four talented, charming, energetic performers work seamlessly together to create an evening of song and skit that's almost pure celebratory froth, with just the smallest undertone of genuine feeling. One could wish for more bite, but the humor's exuberant and the songs clever -- and everyone needs a helping of peach soufflé now and then. In an open-ended run at the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed September 13, 2001.

Mercy of a Storm. It's New Year's Eve, 1945, and an elegantly dressed couple shares champagne in the pool house of a country club. They are George and Zanovia, a divorcing couple, who fight, argue about money, regret the past and think about reuniting. This is an exploration of a marriage riven by issues of age and class, a gentle play, with a patina of sophistication and moments of humor. There are little puzzles throughout, and some surprising answers to those puzzles. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's dialogue is craftsmanlike, and both characters are likable even if they're not deep or sharply delineated. As you watch, you find yourself rooting quite sincerely for the characters, but you don't think about their predicament once you've left the theater. Presented through February 15, the Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-361-2910. Reviewed January 22.

Meshuggah Nuns. Meshuggah Nuns is the kind of show that seems to have no real reason for being. It's inoffensive and even amusing in spots, but it also feels like something created for the sole purpose of filling up time on stage -- and in a world full of musicals with witty scripts and beautiful or sophisticated songs, it's unclear why any company would waste time on it. There are songs, puns and a lot of Jewish-Catholic jokes, many of them pretty standard. The Country Dinner Theatre production is tight and clean, and the cast so talented that they almost manage to pull the evening off. Presented by the Country Dinner Playhouse through March 14, 6875 South Clinton Street, Greenwood Village, 303-799-1410, www.countrydinnerplayhouse.com. Reviewed January 29.

A Streetcar Named Desire. At the beginning of Streetcar, Blanche Dubois, a faded Southern belle who has lost the family estate, arrives at the home of her sister Stella in New Orleans's French Quarter. The Quarter is a near-mythical place to Williams, sultry and hot, filled with jazz music and the scent of decay, evocative of both sensuality and death. Stella is living in a haze of blissful eroticism with her working-class husband, Stanley, a sexy lout who's violent and tender by turns. Blanche is horrified by her brother-in-law. Stanley is infuriated by Blanche's pretensions. He also realizes instantly that she's a threat to his marriage. There's a vicious dynamic of attraction and repulsion between these two damaged but seductive people. The cast is talented, but much of the direction of this all-black production is ill-conceived. The most glaring problem is Kim Staunton's unsympathetic performance as Blanche Dubois. Terrence Riggins creates a Stanley who's entirely original -- a bit of a goof, albeit a dangerous one. January LaVoy is a lovely, gentle Stella. Overall, it's hard to see how so much talent in the service of such an evocative play could go so wrong. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through February 14, Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed January 22.


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