Cats. There's not much of a plot to Cats. You meet the Jellicles, with their cheerful faces and bright black eyes, who dance "under the light of the Jellicle moon"; the Ming-vase-smashing cat burglars, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer; fat, elegant, gentleman's club-haunting Bustopher Jones; and contrary-minded Rum Tum Tugger. The show's emotional core resides with battered street cat Grizabella — once a beauty, now doddering and shunned by the others. When we're told at the beginning by wise Old Deuteronomy that tonight one of all the cats will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer — whatever that is — there's not a lot of suspense about who it will be. Along the way, you get insight into the naming of cats (turns out every cat needs three names), and also how to address a cat: "Before a Cat will condescend/To treat you as a trusted friend/Some little token of esteem/Is needed like a dish of cream." And the music and lyrics are as delicious as a saucer of cream, of course. This is Boulder's Dinner Theatre's second go at Cats, and though it's very like the 2004 production, it's been strengthened in a lot of small ways that make a very big difference. Perhaps most important, the cast features a few notable new dance talents, and there's something to catch and hold your attention at every moment as you confront a moving frieze of kitties cavorting, hissing, twitching and cleaning their own and each others' faces. The BDT's entire cast and crew approach this production with so much energy and enthusiasm that they've made it new again. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 24, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 2.
Dixie's Tupperware Party. Dixie is a booze- and sex-addicted, trash-talking, child-neglecting ex-con from Alabama who holds Tupperware parties in her trailer, and she's invited you to this one. Dixie's Tupperware Party at the Galleria really is a Tupperware party — you get a name tag and raffle number when you come in, and there are pens and catalogues on all the tables. Dixie, your hostess, greets you in high white heels and a crotch-skimming skirt, earrings swinging, red hair piled high. Collapsible bowls, punch and party setups, plastic jugs and ribbed mugs (uh-huh) gleam in shades of lime, blue, orange and purple on a table behind her; by the time she's through, you won't be able to look at a plastic storage container without giggling. Just the words "collapsible bowl" will set you off. Dixie is also Kris Andersson, an actor who realized he could make an actual living selling Tupperware and began hosting parties. As he worked, the character of Dixie developed. Andersson brought his show to New York's Fringe Festival in 2004, and it caught fire from there. This production is seriously dirty, and it's also one terrific evening. Dixie is a great character: She doesn't give an inch, but she's as appealing as she is wicked. And Andersson not only loves Dixie, but he loves Tupperware, too — and he's not being snarky about it. So no matter how much Dixie screws up her spiel or how many lewd jokes she makes about the uses to which you can put "the best plastic crap on the planet," there's a reverential quality to the way she fondles the goods that makes you actually want to buy them. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through January 2, Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed December 9.
The Guys. Anne Nelson, a journalism professor, wrote The Guys very soon after 9/11, and the play follows her own responses and experiences closely. Like her protagonist, Joan, Nelson could think of no real way to contribute until she learned of a fire captain who had lost eight men in the attack and needed help composing eulogies. She spent five hours taking down his thoughts and transforming them into writerly prose, then turned the interaction into a play. But this flat and obvious script feels downright obtuse in light of all that's happened in the intervening years. The format is necessarily static, but that wouldn't matter if the play brought the fallen firefighters to life and communicated a real sense of loss. But the anecdotes remain ordinary, and the information we get about the culture of firefighting mundane. So many questions are swirling around, and none of them gets addressed or answered even obliquely. What kind of person can rush into a furnace so hot that it singes hair and skin? What language do members of the firefighting community use among themselves, and how do they let off steam? Only Joan's monologues express any real feeling, and unfortunately that feeling is self-pity — as if the entire story were primarily about her. "Will we go back to normal?" she asks at the end. "Normal will be different. This is the new normal." And you can't help reflecting on what you know of the new normal: families and their attorneys squabbling over compensation; the monstrously expensive plans for the site, along with all the jockeying for control and commissions; and the racist national controversy about plans for a nearby mosque. Not to mention the cities and villages devastated overseas and the scores of people slaughtered by the effects of our national rage and grief. Presented by Firehouse Theater Company through September 17, John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place, 303-562-3232, www.firehousetheatrecompany.com. Reviewed September 1.
Love! Valour! Compassion! Eight gay men assemble for three summer weekends at a beautiful upstate New York house in Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! The house is owned by Greg, a dancer and choreographer now in his forties, who's concerned about his waning creativity and aging body and lives with his blind young lover, Bobby. Among the visitors are Ramon, a frisky, sexy, young Puerto Rican dancer; Buzz, a costume designer and musical-comedy aficionado; long-term stable couple and reluctant role models Perry and Arthur; and John, a sardonic Englishman whom nobody likes and who has the sneaky habit of reading Greg's journal in secret. Eventually the group is joined by John's identical twin, James, who is as warm and kindly as his brother is unpleasant. Love! Valour! Compassion! is fairly long and its plot discursive: You get fidelity, infidelity and almost-infidelity; people betray, curse and support each other; there's a new love affair. Two of the men have AIDS, and a sense of mortality shadows all the goings-on. But the play also evokes a very specific milieu with lucidity and affection, and for the most part the dialogue is sharp, incisive, sometimes touching. Love! Valour! Compassion! turns out to be a celebration of Love! Mortality! Endurance! And really, what else is there? Presented by Vintage Theatre Productions through September 18, 2119 East 17th Avenue, 303-839-1361, www.vintagetheatre.com. Reviewed August 25.