All in the Timing. David Ives's six one-acts are all about language, communication and understanding, and also chance and fate. The dialogue is light and funny and fizzy, and it gets your frontal lobes buzzing as you attempt to catch and process all the flying puns, allusions, jokes, rhythms and nonsense syllables in order to extract any insights they contain. In the first play, "Sure Thing," a young man and woman meet at a coffee shop. Futures are encapsulated in chance moments like this: Will the encounter be rapidly forgotten — "Is this seat taken?" "Yes" — or will it lead to marriage, children, a lifetime spent together? This particular couple is blessed with some kind of invisible overseer; whenever their interaction threatens to dead-end, there's a game-show-wrong-answer kind of ding, and they get to begin again. The playlet is sharp and sweet and beautifully acted by Susan Scott and Jeremy Make. Another standout is "The Universal Language," in which a young woman walks into the makeshift office of a huckster who says he's teaching a new language called Unamunda that will "unite all humankind" and that consists of vaguely sound-alike words and phrases — "John Cleese" for English, "al dente" meaning already — mixed with pieces of inspired gibberish. Eventually student and teacher are bopping and scatting and chanting together in an effervescent dance of language and meaning. "The Philadelphia," in which a man discovers he's fallen into a metaphysical hole in which nothing is as it should be and he can't get anything he wants, is more pedestrian, playing on the provincial contempt New Yorkers feel for Philadelphia. But overall, these one-acts make for a clever, bright and very funny evening. Presented by Modern Muse Theatre Company through September 16, the Bug, 3654 Navajo Street, 303-780-7836, www.modernmusetheatre.com. Reviewed August 23.
Sista's and Storytellers. This is not a play, and it's not exactly a cabaret act, either. It's sort of a cross between a slumber party and a church service, as a group of women who sang together as children in a choir called the Heavenly Voices come together for a reunion. They drink a little, nibble a little, discuss their romances and discover that friendship is a great healer. And also that any support friends can't provide will be supplied by Jesus Christ. The dialogue is vague and general, the tech minimal and the acting broad, but the evening is filled with music and song, and the voices of the six performers — though distorted and overmiked — provide every reason you'll ever need for a trek to the theater. Presented by the Black Box in the New Denver Civic Theatre, Thursdays through August 30, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-309-3773, www.sistasandstorytellers.com. Reviewed June 14.
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The Sound of Music. Even in this excellent production, The Sound of Music remains pure treacle, with one-dimensional characters, an unconvincing plot and an oddly sugary view of the rise of Nazism. Some of the songs are very pretty — the title song, for instance, as well as "Climb Every Mountain," "I Must Have Done Something Good" and the nuns' beautiful chants. But it doesn't help that they're so over-familiar, and that other numbers , "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "So Long, Farewell" — are just plain icky. Scott Beyette, who directs, has cast the show well, though, and there are many sweet and appealing voices. As for the necessary plethora of adorable children, each comes across as individual and interesting, and not one is cloying, self-conscious or too cute. If any production could make me like The Sound of Music, this is it. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through August 31, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 28.
The Taffetas: A Musical Journey Through the Fabulous Fifties. With the figure of Senator Joseph McCarthy looming over the American landscape, the 1950s were anything but fabulous, as the full title of The Taffetas asserts. This is a pre-packaged, lightweight, no-calories, go-down-easy sort of production, a cheap-to-produce moneymaker with no artistic or intellectual ambitions. But putting all this aside is surprisingly easy to do. The costumes are perfect, the choreography appealing. The songs range from silly to interesting to really pretty, and — most important — the four women in the cast are charming and talented. According to what evanescent plot line there is, these women are sisters from Muncie, Indiana, who are performing on a television program in New York and hoping to snare a slot on The Ed Sullivan Show. The singing is punctuated by genuine television commercials of the era, including the rhythmically percolating coffeepot that sold America on Maxwell House. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through September 16, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed June 21.
All in the Timing
Three Viewings. "Tell-Tale" is the first of the three monologues — each of them a negotiation with the dead —that make up Jeffrey Hatcher's Three Viewings. It's an homage to Edgar Allen Poe's famous horror story "The Telltale Heart," in which the protagonist murders an old man, then is driven to madness because he cannot stop the steady muffled beating of his victim's heart from sounding in his ears. The horror in "Tell-Tale" is muted and gentle, however. Emil, a funeral director, muses about the real-estate agent he loved in secret for many years. True to the title, that still-beating heart does indeed turn up, in a completely unexpected way. The second speaker, in "The Thief of Tears," is Mac, a raunchy, tough-talking woman who makes a living stealing jewelry from corpses. Finally, in "Thirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti," we meet a dignified middle-class widow who learns after her husband has died that he was in thick with the Mafia, cheated many people and left her with more than a million dollars' worth of debt. The writing in this third piece is more satiric and less overtly emotional than in the other two monologues, but the overall script is mordantly witty, entertaining without being shallow — and director Terry Dodd does it justice. Presented by Crossroads at Five Points Theater through September 8, 303-832-0929, www.denvercrossroads.com. Reviewed July 19.
Too Old to Be Loud. Heritage Square is unlike any other dinner theater in the state — and possibly the nation. The facility itself debuted in the 1950s as Magic Mountain, a Disneyesque theme park with whimsical buildings based on Colorado architectural styles. In 1970, it was bought by the Woodmoor Corporation and reincarnated as Heritage Square; soon after, G. William Oakley opened the Heritage Square Opera House, which featured wickedly silly — yet oddly clever — melodramas. Current director T.J. Mullin took over in 1986 and shifted both the name and the focus, alternating hopped-up versions of classic stories with shows that are pretty much a medley of songs. Too Old to Be Loud is the sixth in a series based on an annual reunion in the Boylan High School gym, a thin plot line that serves as the excuse for this talented ensemble to offer some great rock and roll, hilarious sendups of pop stars and a rendition of the Beatles' "Yesterday," during which Mullin gets to reveal his surprisingly melodious tenor. Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through October 14, 18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-279-7800. www.hsmusichall.com. Reviewed July 12.