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 26, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, 303-774-4037, www.nomadstage.com. Reviewed May 6.
Impulse Theater. Basements and comedy go together like beer and nuts or toddlers and sandboxes. The basement of the Wynkoop Brewery where Impulse Theater performs is crowded, loud and energetic. Impulse does no prepared skits, nothing but pure improv -- which means that what you see changes every night, and so does the team of actors. These actors set up and follow certain rules and frameworks; they rely on audience suggestions to get these scenes going or to vary the action. Your level of enjoyment depends a lot on whether or not you like the players. Charm is a factor, and so is the ability to take risks. Fortunately, the performers are clever and fast on their feet, willing to throw themselves into the action but never betraying tension or anxiety, perfectly content to shrug off a piece that isn't coming together. The show is funny when the actors hit a groove, but equally funny when they get stymied. So, in a way, the improvisers -- and the audience -- can't lose. Impulse Theater, ongoing run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.
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.
Old Times. There isn't a linear plot to Old Times, but there is a series of events propelled by recognizable human impulses. The characters' words may be deliberately gnomic, but their emotions and motivations are clear. 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 (actually, she's been present all along, standing with her back to the other actors) 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 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.
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