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.
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. Presented by the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex through August 29, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed September 13, 2001.
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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.
Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a sometimes ironic and sometimes respectful take on Ovid's work of the same name. The cast assembles around a granite pool -- a miracle of design and engineering at the Avenue Theater -- that can be anything from a backyard pool to the Greeks' dangerous wine-dark sea, a medium for death, birth, baptism and transformation. Actors act out the myths or narrate them, sometimes addressing the audience, sometimes each other. The gods they portray are pretty much like the rest of us, vain or large-spirited, compassionate or cruel. Zimmerman may deserve all the praise she's earned for Metamorphoses, but the most powerful scenes rely on the words of Ovid and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Still, Metamorphoses is a seductive combination of lighthearted pleasure and resonant, powerful theme. Presented by the Avenue Theater through August 29, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 17.
Cirque du Soleil: Varekai. Again and again, Cirque du Soleil's Varekai puts you in that state of enjoyment where you're not even capable of thought; you're just watching, breath suspended, wanting what you're seeing to go on forever. Everything one associates with Cirque is here -- the artful settings and costumes, the pulse-quickening, evocative music, the sometimes half-baked mythologizing -- but the real point of Varekai is movement. The company routinely acquires the most gifted acrobats, circus performers, jugglers and contortionists in the world, and its acts are spectacular. But it isn't just the performers' daring and athleticism that astonishes; it's their perfectionism and artistry. Varekai provides an almost overwhelming feast of music, dance, visual inventiveness, humor, physical daring and pure pleasure. Presented by Cirque du Soleil through July 11, Grand Chapiteau tent on the grounds of the Pepsi Center, 1-800-678-5440, www.cirquedusoleil.com. Reviewed June 17.
Yellowman. Dael Orlandersmith's lacerating Yellowman explores racism within the black community -- that is, the contempt felt by some lighter-skinned African-Americans toward their darker-skinned brethren, and the reciprocal rage it engenders. The author deserves tremendous credit for her honesty and courage, but Yellowman is far more than a political screed. The play is set in 1960s South Carolina, and the two characters aren't types; they're breathing human beings whose lives are complicated by issues of poverty, class, youth, isolation and alcoholism. Alma describes her mother as hopeless, fat, drunken, uneducated and ugly. Eugene is the son of a dark-skinned father and a lighter-skinned mother. The two play together as children; later, they fall in love. But theirs is not a world in which love can flourish. The cast is strong, and the play's flaws are more than offset by the playwright's emotional honesty and her refusal to sentimentalize her characters or mouth meaningless truisms. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through July 10 at the Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed June 24.