Art. Yasmina Reza's cool, witty, much-celebrated and much-performed play is ostensibly about art, but it's more about friendship. At the center of the action is an all-white painting, purchased by Serge, a dermatologist, for a huge sum of money. Perhaps he feels a genuine affinity for the piece, perhaps he's a vain poseur impressed by the artist's fame, perhaps he's just attempting to re-create and redefine himself: The characters and their issues aren't that clearly delineated in the script. All this is intensely irritating to his old friend Marc, who finds Serge pretentious and the painting a piece of shit. The third member of the trio is neurotic Yvan. When he's with Marc, he agrees that Serge's purchase is ridiculous; when he's with Serge, he says he finds all kinds of nuance in the thing; when he's with both his friends — well, sparks fly, and he has no idea how to handle them. Art is very clever and sometimes almost profound, though the emotions it arouses tend to dissipate fairly soon after you've left the theater. Still, it's absorbing to watch, and you find yourself thinking fairly hard about what your friends mean to you. Director Richard H. Pegg has assembled three first-rate and highly individualized actors, and their ensemble work is terrific. You'll want to see this beautifully precise and very entertaining production with friends — and allow plenty of time for conversation afterwards. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through October 24,1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed September 16.
Dead Man's Cell Phone. The discussion about the uses and abuses of cell phones in Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone is dated. Many people no longer use their phones to talk; they're too busy checking e-mail, playing games, counting calories and perusing their calendars. But Ruhl's deeper concerns are intriguing: her exploration of the ways in which we're shaped by our interactions with others; her questions about how we remember the dead; the persistence with which she struggles to dismantle the barrier between life and death — as she did in her shimmering Eurydice and does again through the penetrative agency of the mobile phone. Ruhl's genius is for arresting images, and this play begins with one. A mousy woman named Jean is sitting in a cafe when a cell phone rings. She glances at its owner, a well-dressed businessman at the next table, but the phone goes unanswered. Eventually, she realizes that the man is dead. There's something about the realization, the still, silent figure in this mundane world of tables and salt shakers, that sends a chill down the spine. Impulsively, Jean picks up the man's phone, and this single act opens up a whole new life to her — that of the dead man, Gordon. She decides to comfort the people he left behind, which means lying to them about his final moments. Unfortunately, she has no idea how cold, dishonest and corrupt Gordon's life has been, or how twisted his relationships are. There's much to admire in Dead Man's Cell Phone, but the script is marred by cuteness, whimsy and a really ghastly sentimentality. Yet despite all this, the production holds your fascinated attention throughout, in part because of the strengths of the script, in part because it has one hell of a cast. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through October 16, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed September 30.