Circe. "Circe" -- Chapter Fifteen evokes a stream of ideas and images that flow by faster than they can be absorbed, although on one level they're very familiar -- all that grotesque and hilarious stuff dealing with sex, shame, religion, transsexuality, myth, politics, food, lust, greed, shame, sex, religion, dirt, nightmare, hunger, violence, justice, darkness, religion, shame, sex. Ulysses has been proclaimed one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, but there are not many people who have read it all the way through. The story is a recounting of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he wanders Dublin, obsesses about his wife's infidelity and connects with the young Stephen Dedalus. The Germinal version of Chapter 15 has been adapted for stage by producer-director Ed Baierlein, and the production is a huge achievement -- disciplined, intelligent and respectful. Within the small confines of an evening in the theater, it manages to communicate the unwieldy, magnificent uncontainability of Joyce's novel. Terry Burnsed's Bloom astonishes. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through July 11, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed July 1.
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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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.
Say Goodnight Gracie. George Burns, having just died, finds himself in limbo. To enter heaven and reunite with his professional partner and beloved wife, Gracie Allen, he has to audition for God. The audition is a recounting of his life. Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum on New York's Lower East Side. He shared a weekly bathtub of hot water with several siblings and a dog. Still a kid, he undertook a number of jobs to help keep the family afloat after his father's sudden death. He found that people would pay to hear him sing, and his infatuation with show business bloomed into passion when he teamed up with a young Irish Catholic vaudevillian named Gracie Allen. After their first performance together -- which bombed -- Burns realized that Allen was much funnier than he was, so he proposed that they switch lines, and he assumed the role of straight man. Instantly, they became a hit. The couple succeeded, sequentially, in vaudeville, radio and television. Frank Gorshin's performance as George Burns keeps the evening entertainingly afloat. He simply is George Burns for an hour and a half. The play is a lovely tribute to a fertile period in American comedy and a genuinely original comic couple. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through August 15, Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed July 1.
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, 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. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through July 10 at the Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed June 24.