Alarms & Excursions. Alarms & Excursions is minor Michael Frayn, 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. 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. All in all, though, a pleasant evening at the theater. Presented by Nomad Theatre through June 26, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037, www.nomadstage.com. Reviewed May 6.
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 in an open-ended run, 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.
Nat King Cole & Me. The script of Nat King Cole & Me is simplistic and sentimental, the protagonist's mother reduced to a one-dimensional figure, the father a mindless rogue. Because his father was almost always absent, Gregory Porter, who wrote and stars in this play, became fixated on the persona of Nat King Cole. He listened to Cole's music and interpreted the lyrics as fatherly advice and encouragement. That's about it for plot. Fortunately, the script isn't the primary reason for going to see Nat King Cole & Me. The real draw is the music. Porter has a fine voice and sings such classics as "What'll I Do," "Dance Ballerina Dance," "When I Fall in Love" and "Unforgettable" with a reverence that brings them to life. There are also six songs composed by Porter himself. The production features five terrific musicians as well, and Porter's fellow actors bring fine voices to the show. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through June 5. The Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed May 27.
Old Times. There isn't a linear plot to Old Times, but there is a series of events propelled by recognizable human impulses. Deeley and Kate are a long-married couple living in a converted farmhouse in the country. Deeley is more fascinated by Kate than she is by him, or perhaps his curiosity has been aroused by a pending visit from Kate's old friend, Anna. Anna, now married and living in Italy, is a vital, sensual woman. No sooner has she arrived than she begins competing with Deeley for Kate's attention. What we witness is a power struggle, with sex as a weapon in the service of something even more elemental, and the locus of power constantly shifting between the three characters. Director Cathy Reinking has assembled a fascinating cast, and this is a chilling, brain-teasing production. Presented by the Bas Bleu Theatre Company through June 26, 216 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed May 27.
Triple Espresso. Triple Espresso is like the first few minutes of a dinner-theater production, the part where the emcee comes out 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.
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