Alarms & Excursions. Alarms & Excursions is minor Michael Frayn, a series of comic finger pieces, but it can't help bearing the master's stamp. A group of eight playlets examines the role of technology in our lives and its impact on human communication. In the first, a friendly dinner is interrupted by a series of sounds: an unidentifiable "chink," rings and whistles, a recurring phone message in which a disembodied voice mumbles menacing things about missing cash at the office and possible prosecution. At the same time, a complicated bottle opener baffles the host and ultimately lands one of the guests in the hospital. In the second skit, two couples inhabit adjoining, identical hotel rooms, hearing and mis-hearing each other's conversations, their misunderstandings exacerbated by the fact that one couple is working-class and the second more prosperous. Most of the pieces in the second act are mere sketches, but several are pretty amusing. The set at Nomad is painted in primary colors and ingeniously constructed, but the set changes added long minutes to an already long evening. The acting was uneven, too. All in all, though, a pleasant evening at the theater. With some tightening up, it could be a delightful one. Presented by Nomad Theatre through June 19, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037, www.nomadstage.com. Reviewed May 6.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! Four talented, charming eneergetic 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.
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.
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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.
Rose. Rose, an ailing woman in her eighties, sits shiva on a public bench. We don't know whose death she is mourning, though she tells us early on that her own daughter was killed by the Nazis at age nine. Rose then takes us on a tour of twentieth-century Jewish history, beginning with her childhood in a Central European shtetl and her memories of the pogroms, continuing through the Holocaust and finally detailing her life in middle-class New Jersey. Throughout, she wonders what it means to be a Jew. Judaism is a religion based on argument, she comments, and on "asking questions that cannot be answered." But visiting her son's family in contemporary Israel, she encounters the stony certainty of the militant settler movement that Gaza and the West Bank belong to the Jews, even if that requires inflicting suffering on another people. Playwright Martin Sherman's writing is nuanced, and under the direction of Richard H. Pegg, Deborah Persoff gives a heartfelt and meticulously detailed performance. Presented by Everyman Theatre Company through May 23, Pluss Theatre, Mizel Center for Art and Culture, 350 Dahlia Street, 303-316-6360. Reviewed May 13.
Triple Espresso. Triple Espresso is like the first few minutes of a dinner-theater production, the part where the emcee comes out and congratulates the people in the audience who are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, jokes with a pretty girl, gets impudent with an older couple and asks how many people in the audience are from Minnesota. You grin and clap and put up with it because you've had some food and a couple of drinks and you know there's singing and dancing to follow. But with Triple Espresso, the introduction doesn't stop. It goes on and on. More jokes, more audience participation, more sing-alongs. This is neither a play nor genuine comedy, but chain theater, the theatrical equivalent of Starbucks. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through October 3, Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed May 13.