Book of Days. Lanford Wilson's Book of Days is a bitter exegesis of life in small-town America; the cast serves as narrator and chorus. At its heart is a murder. The play tells us that life in this country has been corrupted on every level and in almost every way. It posits a connection between the vile plasticized food we eat, the subjugation of women, the corporatization of America and the unholy alliance between politics and right-wing religion. But every idea is stated and stated again. Every character embodies a characteristic Wilson wants to applaud or deride. Each scene drives home a point. Most of the performances are as convincing as the script allows. Presented by the Aurora Fox through May 16, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 303-361-2910. Reviewed April 29.
Boy Gets Girl. Playwright Rebecca Gilman has won awards and been praised in all the right places. But Boy Gets Girl is limp, didactic and dated. Not that the subject matter is irrelevant. A confident and successful young woman, Theresa, connects with someone a friend has set her up with. She soon realizes she's not interested in this man and lets him down as gently as she can. Then flowers start arriving at her workplace, followed by phone messages that rapidly turn threatening. The premise of Boy Gets Girl is interesting, but the other plot elements refuse to cohere. The characters aren't characters at all, but simply actors who say things Gilman wants said; the women agonize about their own subservience, and the men are all guilty on some level. Most annoying is the assumption that stalking is just an intensification of society's general inhumanity toward women. There's obviously some connection, but stalking is a pathological act. The actors work hard at their roles, but the text keeps disintegrating in their hands like sodden Kleenex. Presented by Theatre Group through May 15, the Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-777-3292, www.theatregroup.com. Reviewed April 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.
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Inventing van Gogh. Inventing van Gogh unleashes a torrent of ideas about art -- possibly enough for a dozen plays. The words are so evocative and so many, the set and lighting so lushly colored, the acting so selfless, that the experience of watching the play becomes all-encompassing. There are dozens of themes that deserve closer analysis, but the primary one involves the titanic struggle of an artist to wrench meaning from a recalcitrant world and ransom his own soul. The play begins when an unscrupulous art authenticator, Bouchard, visits Patrick, an art student, and proposes that Patrick fabricate a lost, legendary self-portrait, supposedly completed by van Gogh shortly before his suicide. As he struggles at the easel, Patrick hallucinates van Gogh -- who seems also to be hallucinating him. The play shifts back and forth in time; the two lives unfold. This is a wonderful -- and wonderfully literate -- script that avoids its subject's obvious pitfalls, is never ignorantly worshipful and deploys irony, passion and boldness. Presented by Curious Theatre through May 22, Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524. Reviewed April 22.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This is a slight piece, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice in 1968 as a twenty-minute-long pop cantata for a school concert. An embryonic work, it is also far less pretentious than the puffed-up, overblown extravaganzas of later years. The musical tells the biblical story of Joseph, son of Jacob, whose brothers resent the love shown to him by their father and exemplified by the coat of many colors the old man has given him. They sell Joseph into slavery. After a lot of shenanigans that include a false charge of seduction, time in prison and the practice of prophesy for the Pharaoh, Joseph becomes a big man in Egypt. Eventually, the perfidious brothers appear, begging for food. All this is leavened with musical jokes and lots of effervescent humor. Time periods swirl into each other as schoolchildren in baseball caps move among ancient Egyptians wearing golden headdresses. The cast is talented, and the members work well together. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through June 20, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed March 18.
The Triumph of Love. A princess, Leonide, wishes to wed the prince Agis, whose throne her family usurped -- both in order to undo the wrong and because she loves him. Agis, unaware of his own background, has been raised by Hermocrates, a brilliant philosopher, and Hermocrates's spinster sister, Leontine. Disguised as a man, Leonide erupts into the household and turns it upside down, bribing the servants and coaxing everyone to fall in love with her. Agis accepts her as a beloved companion, Hermocrates sees through her disguise and courts her as a woman, while Leontine remains convinced the ravishing interloper is male. But this isn't the comic romp you might expect. There's a coldness at the heart of this text that can strike the viewer as either elegantly cynical or chilling. And it's this aspect that director Ed Baierlein emphasizes in the Germinal Stage production. Graced by an excellent cast, this show is worth seeing as an introduction to the work of an important playwright and as a witty, unsentimental take on love. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through May 9, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed April 22.