Date. Some years ago, writer-actor Luciann Lajoie found herself alone and at loose ends, so she decided to try Internet dating. In Date, seated in what looks like a pretty bare apartment, empty chip bags on the table beside her laptop along with a fortifying bottle of wine, she takes us step by step through the process. We're somewhere between Girls and Sex and the City territory here. Lajoie is a little older and much more charming and self-assured than the sad-looking protagonist of Girls, but she's not inhabiting the narcissistic and artificial Cosmo-style world of Carrie and her fashionable and inexplicably wealthy friends, either. And her approach isn't purely solipsistic. Having worked her way through the Internet scene, from cheap sites to more expensive and specific ones — determining what minor lies she needed to tell in her profile and how to Photoshop her picture; attempting to figure out who turns her on and why a perfectly nice doctor leaves her cold ("I just can't fuck a meatloaf for the rest of my life") — Lajoie took a tape recorder to a hundred other people who had tried online dating. She then employed the services of a host of local actors, and their videotaped interpretations of the interviewees' words play intermittently on the wall behind her. These vignettes are skillfully interwoven with her narrative, adding context, contour and variation. Lajoie is a vivid, talented actress and makes an excellent guide through the dating thickets, tough yet self-deprecating, attractive but approachable. Her piece, which she originated and eventually completed in collaboration with the Denver Center Theatre Company's artistic staff, isn't deep, but it is smart and funny, and it conveys real insights into how people present themselves, how human connections get made and broken, the power of the new media and the destructive effects of persistent loneliness. Presented by Off Center @ the Jones through May 12, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed May 3.
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The Drowsy Chaperone. The role of the Man in the Chair is the spine for The Drowsy Chaperone, and the primary reason that this lighthearted, inconsequential and very silly show is so much fun to watch: Without him, it would just float off into the ether. But with him, we're invited in on the joke, and his trenchant observations provide a sometimes tartly refreshing frame. This man is middle-aged, gay and slightly melancholy. He adores 1920s musicals, and to cheer himself up — and explain his passion to us, the audience — he decides to play a disc of a purely fictive show called The Drowsy Chaperone. And that's when everything changes: platforms swivel, walls move, doors open onto unexpected places, and a swarm of hyper-energetic actors invades his nondescript apartment. A sendup of the shows the Man loves, Chaperone includes big, sparkling numbers; lots of tapping and singing; moronic plot twists; vaudeville routines; puns; a pretty ingénue; a handsome leading man; a vampy, drunken chaperone; a clownish, self-infatuated Italian; and a couple of Mafia guys who are more ridiculous than menacing. There are also a couple of digs at the provincialism and unconscious racism of early musicals. Boulder's Dinner Theatre has mounted a wonderful production of the show, with a very strong cast. Brian Norber gives the Man a weary intelligence, pitching the role precisely between cynicism and wonder. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through May 13, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed March 15.
The Two of Us. This group of four short plays is Michael Frayn's earliest theatrical work. Its genesis came in 1970, when he submitted Black & Silver for an evening of one-acts, was rejected, and decided to write three more pieces and create The Two of Us. The first playlet, the original Black & Silver, follows a couple trying to recapture the magic of their Venice honeymoon three years later — only now they have their squalling baby in tow. They try to sleep. The baby wakes and cries. They mutter and argue, rock the cradle and change the diaper. There's a lot of stumbling about in the half dark and unfunny tumbling over chairs. The second play is quite wonderful, however: A young man shows up at the home of an older woman he met at a party the night before, determined to move in; she's puzzled, irritated, anxious to get rid of him. But by the time he's through weaving verbal nets of crazy connections and bits of popular science, and expounding on his bizarre philosophy — in which people not only say the opposite of what they mean, but actually feel the opposite of what they think they feel — she's getting a bit swoony. In the third playlet, a man expresses himself almost entirely through his foot, while his exasperated wife carries on a monologue with an imaginary person and gets drunk on imaginary booze. The final offering concerns a disastrous dinner party. The evening is uneven: flashes of brilliance, stretches of boredom and moments of sheer exhilaration, but you can see in this skilled production the techniques and ideas that will inform Frayn's body of brilliant mature work. Presented by Miners Alley through May 20, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed April 19.