Reviewed: Beowulf (Closing), Four More Shows to See Now!

The Catamounts get wild with Beowulf.
The Catamounts get wild with Beowulf.
The Catamounts

This weekend is your last chance to catch Beowulf at the Dairy Arts Center (Saturday's show comes complete with a feast!). Keep reading for a capsule review of that production, as well as four more in metro Denver.

Steven Burge is playing God in An Act of God.
Steven Burge is playing God in An Act of God.
denvercenter.org

An Act of God.  In this ninety-minute script by David Javerbaum, winner of multiple Emmys for his work on The Daily Show, God explains that he’s “a jealous, petty, sexist, racist, mass-murdering narcissist” — something we could have guessed simply from the state of the world — who has come back to edit the Ten Commandments because they’re out of date. With God are his two favorite angels: Gabriel, who actually seems quite a bit more compassionate and ethical than the deity himself, and Michael, who’s prone to asking difficult questions, and whom God rapidly silences and punishes. Lounging in dazzling white robes on a dazzling white sofa in an elegantly dazzling room, God acquaints us with his thinking. He doesn’t have much patience with football players’ constant evocations of his name, and he mocks evolution deniers — well, sort of. It’s possible he actually meant this: “I planted all of it.... In Me all things are fakeable. I molded the fossils; I modified the DNA; I specialized the finch beaks; heck, I booked Darwin’s cruise.” It does turn out that he has no problem with homosexuality, and the evangelical insistence that he created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, is exactly backward. Steve did precede Eve — Eve was created later through surgical intervention. But assume an enlightened God who’ll rightfully ridicule right-wing hyper-religiosity while honoring compassionate politics and dropping the occasional genuinely enlightening truth. This is also a God who enjoyed watching Abraham’s terrible sorrow when he was ordered to kill his first-born son, Isaac; finds the Book of Job insanely funny; and cannot comprehend his own son Jesus’s desire to redeem humankind. God sort of gets away with all this because his earthly manifestation is so charming. But if you’re hoping for a moment of redemption, a Hallmark Card aphorism, a realization that Jesus had it right and suffering is terribly wrong, don’t hold your breath. Steven J. Burge is now playing God, and watching him is almost a religious experience — but funnier. Presented through April 8 at the Garner Galleria, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Read the full review of An Act of God.

The Catamounts get wild with Beowulf.
The Catamounts get wild with Beowulf.
The Catamounts

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage. You don’t need to be a Beowulf fan to get swept up in this extraordinary production, which begins with a panel of three scholars attempting to dissect the text of the epic poem. Pretty soon, one of them transforms into the monster Grendel and begins a killing spree, to the dismay and perplexity of King Hrothgar. All this takes place to throbbing, raucous music, a mix of rock, Brecht-Weill, chant, almost-opera and gypsy jazz that turns the evening into a scintillating concert. But it's better, because it’s also a story, told in a series of insanely comic and inventive scenes. Take the utterly daft battle between our unlikely Beowulf and Grendel: Pale-bellied and wearing spectacles, Beowulf nonetheless asserts his heroic masculinity, flexes his muscles, tosses off a few impressive hand-clap push-ups and rushes at the foe; he prevails. We meet the dying Grendel’s underwater-dwelling mother, listen to her tender song as she holds him (“Mama, he ripped off my arm”), laugh at her angry diatribe against Beowulf (“Did you know he was slightly retarded?...You filthy fascist,” to which he can only respond defensively that he himself is “a little dyslexic”). Through this scene, you wonder whether there’s some incest here. Perhaps that’s the baggage of the title. Or perhaps the baggage is hyper-masculinity, if not the endless, meaningless, irritating pick-pick-picking of academics at these ancient texts. All the performances are fine — full-bore and very physical. The theater is set up as a mead hall, and actors leap effortlessly up onto your table, gaze at you meaningfully and will occasionally take your hand, mutely asking for comfort. One of them may even gulp down your drink. The music direction is exhilarating. There’s plenty of dancing — comic, free, fierce, and perfectly synchronized, down to the smallest shoulder shrug. On Saturdays, a community dinner follows the play: cornbread, baked beans and huge smoked turkey legs, and the experience of eating and drinking with other audience members while sharing the exhilaration of the performance provides the perfect capper for this rousing, rattling, smart and sophisticated production. Presented by the Catamounts through March 18, Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, 303-444-7328, thecatamounts.org. Read the full review of Beowulf.

The Arvada Center Black Box repertory company in Bus Stop.
The Arvada Center Black Box repertory company in Bus Stop.
Arvada Cener

Bus Stop. Bus Stop was written in 1955, and it creaks a bit. A group of people are stranded by a howling blizzard at a bus-stop restaurant in a small town west of Kansas City. What follows is a character study of this disparate gathering, along with a meditation on love in their various voices. There’s Grace, who presides over the place with the help of high-schooler Elma; the local sheriff, Will; bus driver Carl; a disgraced professor, Dr. Gerald Lyman; and the couple who carry the strongest dramatic charge: impetuous cowboy Bo Decker and Cherie, the woman he’s carried off against her will and is determined to take to his Montana ranch as his wife. You can play Bus Stop for comedy — it has lots of funny moments — or emphasize the script’s underlying pathos. This Arvada Center production does neither with much conviction. Grace is having a cheerful, no-strings affair with Carl. Divorced herself, she doesn’t even know if Carl’s married, and she doesn’t particularly care — an arrangement that would have been very daring in its time. Young Elma is in love with books, fascinated by the Shakespeare-quoting Dr. Lyman and completely unaware of the dangers posed by his keen attention to her. Bo’s longtime older friend, Virgil, is a kind of father figure to him, and strong, kindly Sheriff Will represents a father figure to pretty much everyone else. All of the actors, members of a repertory company put together specifically for the center’s Black Box theater, are very strong, but somehow their work doesn’t jell into a true ensemble. The rhythms are wrong, the dialogue often falls flat, and the characters don’t feel fully developed or explored. Presented by the Arvada Center Black Box through April 15, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of Bus Stop.

Keep reading for two more reviews.



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