Annie. Boulder's Dinner Theatre is at the top of its form; it has to be. How else could the company make Annie anything but a smirking sentimental bore? As everyone knows by now, the story of Annie concerns a little red-haired girl's rough life at an orphanage run by the vicious Miss Hannigan. Annie gets away; adopts stray-dog Sandy; is invited into the mansion of Daddy Warbucks, a war profiteer with a heart of gold; helps FDR conceive of the New Deal; rescues her fellow orphans; and is happily adopted by Warbucks, who — no doubt thanks in part to Annie's heart-melting qualities — has begun to realize his feelings for his comely secretary, Grace. The acting at BDT is uniformly appealing, and as the proceedings rollick along, you start to notice how satisfying all the production values are, from Neal Dunfee's sweet, slick orchestra to Alicia Dunfee's choreography; from Linda Morken's meticulous costumes to Amy Campion's clever, three-turnstile set, on which we first see the city skyline, and then, as the turnstiles revolve, a group of homeless people sharing food in a Hooverville, Miss Hannigan's study, a street scene, and Daddy Warbucks's opulent mansion with its platoon of happily singing servants. The adult acting is uniformly fine, and the production also features a big, wambling beauty of a labradoodle and lots of kids — very cute kids, but not cute in that annoyingly self-conscious Hollywood way. Kids so full of wiggling, bumptious energy that you have to wonder just how director Scott Beyette managed to focus it into the joyous yet highly disciplined performances they all put out. The pleasures of this production take you to that silly, giggling, helium-filled and multi-colored place that we all need to visit more often. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 5, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 25.
Home. Two old men are seated at a table, talking. They may be on a hotel terrace, in an old age home, or in a hospital. The men seem sad and beaten down by life; they have odd physical tics and converse in platitudes, in unfinished and overlapping sentences. This dialogue, gnomic and elliptical, owes a debt to Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, with sentences that fall like pebbles into ever-widening silences. Two women surge onto the stage, as defiantly working-class as Jack and Harry are feebly upper-middle or lower-upper. Marjorie is tight and prissy, Kathleen a slouchy creature in shoes that crunch her feet. (She can't wear her regular shoes because they've taken away her laces, she complains.) The women's presence amps up the action, and we begin to suspect that something nasty is going on here and that the characters are insane. Kathleen makes dark references to her own history of violence and rage. Marjorie implies that Jack has proclivities involving little girls. The title of David Storey's play, Home, has multiple meanings. The home the cast inhabits is a spacious and metaphorical one. On one level, it's England herself, a country that has lost her empire and where God has lost his potency, although Jack refers to him morosely as a "presence lurking everywhere." This fascinating, literate and little-known play is well worth seeing, despite some unevenness in the acting. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through July 12, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed June 18.
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Quilters. Quilters is very much a product of its era, and of the feminist movement. While 25 years ago Western myth and popular history focused on outlaws, cowboys, gold miners and trappers, very little attention was paid to the women who somehow managed to raise children and nurture families while facing all the hardships of the frontier. Authors Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek realized the potency of quilting as a metaphor. Made of scraps and leftovers, quilts were used to swaddle babies, warm the sick, shelter sleepers through the bitter winter nights and cover the dead. They served as gifts and charitable offerings; they marked such significant transitions as births, weddings and coming of age. Quilts married gritty practicality with artistic expression, as women sewed their deepest thoughts and longings into their panels. The amazing thing is that Quilters still works in the 21st century. Sure, every now and then it's a bit too smiley, dancey and pink-edged, but there are shadows in it, and some hard truths. We learn of cholera, choking dust, life- and property-devouring fires. The actors speak of the babies born year after year after year until a mother's body simply gave out or she resorted to self-induced abortion. Any sentimentality that remains is mitigated by the humor and toughness with which Kathleen M. Brady approaches the central role of Sarah: Her performance is commanding and emotionally rich. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through July 12, Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed June 4.