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 add long minutes to an already long evening. The acting is 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.
The House of Bernarda Alba. Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba is a difficult play to carry off. The plot concerns a group of five daughters confined within the walls of their house for an eight-year mourning period by the iron will of their bitter, violent widowed mother. The language is brooding and poetic and the action condensed and bloodily swift. This is a fever dream of a play, involving church bells, a stallion's hooves pounding at a stable door, trysts at barred bedroom windows, an old woman wandering the house with a white lamb in her arms. The production is worthy of respect, though neither as fiery nor as illuminating as the script demands. Presented by Arcos Azules through May 29, The New Federal Theatre, 3830 Federal Boulevard, 303-571-0901, www.arcosazules.org. Reviewed May 20.
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.
It's Hickenlooper's World -- We Just Live in It. Rattlebrain Theater Company is made up of a group of highly talented and appealing actors who have loads of stage presence. Director Dave Shirley, who also writes much of the material, keeps things buzzing along, and utilizes music and video clips to great effect. In It's Hickenlooper's World, the troupe's target is Denver and the city's relatively new mayor. Some of the skits are very clever and others only mildly amusing, but the cast performs with such enthusiasm and panache that almost everything works. The second act begins with a take-off on the Country Dinner Theatre's Barnstormers that's wonderfully disruptive. Then there's a skit about a Highlands Ranch family preparing for the terrifying trek into Denver where they will encounter people of color -- and some who don't even live in covenant neighborhoods. The Rattlebrain regulars are all first-rate. They come across as vital, unpretentious, gently humorous and willing to try just about anything once -- which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like Denver. Presented by Rattlebrain Theater Company, D& F Tower, 1601 Arapahoe Street, 720-932-7384, www.rattlebraintheatre.com. Reviewed May 20.
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.
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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.