9 Parts of Desire. Heather Raffo is the daughter of an American woman and an Iraqi father, so she's uniquely qualified to bring the two cultures face to face in this one-woman play about the lives of Iraqi women. She herself is represented by one character, an American who feels the current war tearing at her soul and talks about the frantic worry she feels for aunts, uncles and cousins, while all around her in New York, life goes on as usual. And she ponders the fact that in America, it's well understood that a single traumatic event can distort your life forever, yet the Iraqis have faced one trauma after another: the vicious rule of Saddam Hussein, the war against Iran, the 1991 war, the years of deprivation brought on by the embargo, and now the daily violence of this second Gulf War. Based on a decade's worth of interviews, Raffo's script includes insights as revelatory as they are simple, with one woman's insights illuminating or deepening another's, their language interweaving to create a rich tapestry of female experience that communicates a sense of unity and power. On stage for two hours, Karen Slack gives a strong, beautiful, courageous performance. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 23, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed January 17.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A patient named McMurphy is consigned to a state mental institution (he was incarcerated for sleeping with a fifteen-year-old, but hey, she didn't look it) where he meets a whole bunch of sad-sack men, almost every one of them destroyed by some woman or other. McMurphy resolves to help these poor shmucks find their balls, but he's up against a fearsome adversary, the Castrating Bitch of All Castrating Bitches, Nurse Ratched. This play, which premiered in 1963, was adapted by Dale Wasserman from Ken Kesey's novel, and from the very start, it doesn't make a lot of sense. To prevent the audience from figuring out just how puerile it all is, the script includes a lot of half-baked symbolism and moony poeticizing. There are some good performances here — notably Lucy Roucis as a subtle-voiced Nurse Ratched — but it's painful to see PHAMALY's considerable and generous-spirited talents expensed on such a rancid, dated vehicle. Presented by PHAMALY through February 3, Aurora Fox Theatre, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-739-1970, www.phamalay.org. Reviewed January 17.