For Better. Karen has just become engaged to Max. She's met him face-to-face only once, but they've conducted a three-month relationship via cell-phone conversations, texting and instant messaging. Everyone in Karen's small circle —- sister Francine, brother-in-law Michael, old friend Stuart (who's secretly in love with her) and Francine's best friend, Lizzie — communicates (or miscommunicates) in the same way. No one is ever actually in the same room with anyone else. The exception is dear old Dad, who's just as much in thrall to technology as the rest but hasn't gotten past the glued-to-the-television-screen-for-Kojak-reruns phase. The idea that current forms of communication affect our relationships in profound and unpredictable ways isn't new, but playwright Eric Coble has crafted some wonderfully farcical scenes in which his characters perform like sections of a wildly drunken choir or the bobbing objects in a fairground shooting gallery. But when he tries to get serious, he falters. By the play's end, Coble wants us to feel for these people, and things get cloying. Francine and Michael are much more amusing when he's telling her "You are not the most ant-free picnic, you know," than when they're coyly feeding each other bits of cookie. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through December 15, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed November 8.
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Macbeth. Setting Macbeth in the old West should work. From what we know, eleventh-century Scotland was a violent and lawless place, a place where the dirty, drunken louts and desperate whores of our own frontier days would fit right in. Unfortunately, director Geoffrey Kent's vision is far too literal and specific. In his version of the text, castles become ranches, swords bowies and pistols. "Macduff is fled to Durango," goes one memorable line. And it's hard not to laugh at the witches' solemn prophecy to Banquo: "Thou shalt get sheriffs, but not be one." The hyper-realistic set doesn't help. In this production, almost all the action takes place in the same carefully reproduced bar room: People drink, rampage, plot, fight and kill in this place. The Macbeths live here, and so do the Macduffs — that is, when the witches aren't haunting the room, or it isn't the site of an epic battle. Kent has provided a subtext to the Macbeths' villainy: Apparently they've either lost a child or been unable to conceive one. It's not a bad idea, but the tiny cowboy boot meant to represent the absent infant is. Some of the cast members overact; the efforts of others are almost lost amid all the romping, stomping action. Presented by Listen Productions through November 17, Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street, 720-290-1104, www.cowboymacbeth.org. Reviewed November 1.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since her death in Gaza in 2003, when the 23-year-old was run over by an Israeli soldier as she attempted to prevent the bulldozing of a Palestinian home. But Corrie was more than just a symbol; she was a genuinely unique young spirit. This play was put together by English actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner from Corrie's journals and e-mails; it's clear that the world lost a lot when it lost this strong, individual voice. Much of the power of this production stems from the fact that you can't separate what you're seeing on stage from what you know —- that this marvelous young woman, who spoke of death and hope in the same breathless moment, would die a cruel, violent death. "Love you. Really miss you," she wrote in a letter to her mother. "I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside." With her graceful hands and gentle dignity, Julie Rada perfectly embodies the character of Rachel. Director Brian Freeland gives us just enough light to provide a clear view of Rada's face, and she pitches her voice just loud enough to be heard comfortably, but you still have to lean in a little to catch everything. Along with the simplicity of the set, this restraint adds to the power of the evening. Presented by Countdown to Zero through November 17, Bindery/space, 770 22nd Street, 720-938-0466, www.countdowntozero.org. Reviewed October 4.