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. 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. 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.
Born to Be Loud. Born to Be Loud consists of a string of songs from the late '50s to the '80s. Some are sung straight, some satirized, some clearly intended as an homage to a particular band or performer; they're stitched together with all kinds of humor and hokum, and just a whisper of plot. What amazes is the fact that the performers are as musically impressive as they are hilariously funny. Be careful where you sit: Every evening, Annie Dwyer assumes the teenage persona she's sported for every one of the Music Hall's Loud series and focuses like a laser on some hapless man in the audience. She proclaims that this is her faithless boyfriend, Bobby Lee, and proceeds to nag, rage, whine, bully, snap her gum and insult the man's date until he admits that he loves her. Presented by the Heritage Square Music Hall through September 12, 18301 West Colfax, 303-279-7800, www.heritagesquare.info. Reviewed June 10.
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 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.
Be Brave! a Night of Songs Honoring Brenda Worley Billings
TicketsTue., May. 10, 7:00pm
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.
Saints and Hysterics. Although there's a lot in Tracy Shaffer Witherspoon's play about estrogen, birth, mothers and daughters, women in myth and the way society sees women, Saints and Hysterics is neither self-righteous nor ponderous. It has a swift, translucent quality and a leavening of humor, and the playwright's language is a pleasure to listen to. But by the second act, the problems of dramaturgy are clear. While a lot of dramatic things happen, they are never fully explored, and they don't drive the action. It's as if Witherspoon found the idea of femaleness so compelling that she relied on that alone to provide the necessary focus and unity for her story. Still, Carolyn Valentine and Emily Paton Davies give appealing performances. Presented by Paragon Theatre Company through June 26, Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-300-2210, www.paragontheatre.com. Reviewed June 10.
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