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The Big Bang. Sometimes it's nice not to have to think too much, to just settle back and watch a couple of frenetically energetic guys working really hard to earn your good will -- and your entertainment dollars. Oh, and to make you laugh. The Big Bang posits the following scenario: Composer Jed Feuer, played by Ted Keunz, and writer-lyricist Boyd Graham, played by Chris Bogert, are in an expensive penthouse apartment, pitching a musical called The Big Bang to a group of possible backers -- that is, the audience. The show will cost $83.5 million, run twelve hours and feature a cast of hundreds. The Big Bang is just as clever as it needs to be -- sometimes very, sometimes not so much -- but never clever enough to make you stretch your brain. It's never tedious, either, as we're whizzed through the history of the world in a set of musical numbers. Among the funniest: The Virgin Mary and Mrs. Gandhi bitch about the travails of motherhood -- because who but a mother cleans up after the miracle of the loaves and fishes? And what an embarrassment to have a grown son still in diapers! Presented by Playwright Theatre through December 16, 2119 East 17th Avenue, 303-499-0383, Reviewed October 19.

Defiled. On the stage upstairs at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, director Judson Webb has created a quintessential old-fashioned library room, with two desks bearing green-shaded lamps and a card catalogue in the back. The lights go out. Police sirens blare, and red and blue lights flash through the windows on each side of the building. The effect is stunning, but unfortunately, Lee Kalcheim's script is less so. The plot concerns librarian Harry Mendelssohn, who has rigged a crude dynamite bomb to a pillar and is threatening to blow up the library -- a magnificent and cherished civic structure -- if the card catalogue with which he has worked throughout his professional life is replaced by a computer. Enter Brian Dickey, a tired Irish cop who's close to retirement. It's Dickey's job to prevent Harry from detonating his bomb and, if possible, to get him out safely. This is a mildly interesting setup, but Defiled is a very static play. A lot of us fret about the dumbing-down of our culture and the fact that people aren't reading much these days. But Mendelssohn is an annoying spokesman. It's not just that he's whiny and neurotic; it's that his vision is so limited. He wants to stand for something important, something having to do with the future of civilization, but really, in his obsession with the card catalogue and his refusal to understand that computers can enhance as well as impede knowledge, he comes across not only as a Luddite, but as someone who wants to stop the process of change -- the very process of life. Presented by Theatre 13 through November 25, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder, 303-443-2122, Reviewed November 9.

Phantom. I like this Phantom, by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, better than Andrew Lloyd Webber's more well-known version. The plot remains pure Victoriana, a mix of Gothic and Grand Guignol, but it seems less empty, placing more focus on the Phantom's inner life, and gives a more plausible explanation of his love for the beautiful singer Christine. Yeston's lyrics are uninspired, but his music -- a seamless mix of opera, music hall and musical-comedy rhythms and melodies -- is fluid and sometimes beautiful, from the pure joy of "As You Would Love Paree" to the tender strains of "You Are Music." Country Dinner Playhouse does an admirable job with this piece. Randy St. Pierre is a strong Phantom; as Christine, Tracy Venner-Warren has a good singing voice and turns in a polished performance. Dee Etta Rowe, playing the vengeful diva La Carlotta, pounces on every scene she enters and carries it off squealing between her teeth. But perhaps the best performance is that of Craig Lundquist, as an outwardly calm Carriere whose tamped-down passion is finally released in a full-throated baritone when he sings "You Are My Own." Presented by Country Dinner Playhouse through January 14, 6875 South Clinton Street, Greenwood Village, 303-799-1410, Reviewed November 2.


Capsule reviews

tempOdyssey. We see a darkened stage, a file cabinet suspended in the air and, on either side, looming slabs that could be the walls of a canyon, undersea formations or the mysterious rocks of Stonehenge. A woman's voice begins talking through the murk, saying something about the Big Bang. The lighting changes, and we recognize that the slabs make up a city skyline, but then there's another change and, no, they're only mundane stacks of filing cabinets. Issues of scale and the conflation of things great and small, primordial and ordinary, petty and portentous -- these are the elements that drive playwright Dan Dietz's text. As the play opens, the protagonist, Genny, has just secured a job as a temp at Ithaca Techno Solutions. Eventually she's befriended by another temp, whose name appears to be Jim. TempOdyssey is billed as a dark comedy, and at this point you're expecting something Dilbert-flavored, or perhaps a variation on Office Space. But the script is more an extended meditation on myth and personality, dailiness and doom, than a standard drama. Genny grew up on a dusty poultry farm in Georgia, where she killed chickens for customers. Obsessed by all the feathered corpses, she begins to believe she is death itself. Naturally, her impact on Ithaca Techno Solutions -- which involves a walking, talking dead boy and a bomb -- is cataclysmic. TempOdyssey is very funny in places, but funny isn't really the point. It has serious things to say, too, but they're things you can't really put into words. The play does have an impact, however: By the end, you feel as if you've just survived a huge, wind-driven surge of flame that heated your face and singed your hair but moved on, inexplicably, without harming you. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through December 16, Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, Reviewed November 16.


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