Animal Crackers. Animal Crackers is a romp, a trifle — full of puns, malapropisms and visual jokes, and utterly, unabashedly silly. The plot is just an excuse for the crazy brothers, nominally playing actual characters, to visit a Long Island mansion and pull off a series of stunts. There are elements familiar from Marx Brothers movies: a palatial home; an impassive butler; a majestic grande dame who's continually hoodwinked but, despite this, never fazed; two pairs of young lovers who encounter obstacles and misunderstandings. We also get a great explorer returned from Africa. The plot — what there is of it — focuses on a valuable painting that the grande dame, Mrs. Rittenhouse, is showing off for guests; it's stolen and re-stolen for purposes either nefarious or tender-hearted. We recognize the Marx Brothers, though they have different names. That explorer, Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, is Groucho, complete with jet-black mustache and cigar. Emanuel Ravelli, the one in the odd-shaped hat with a broad fake Italian accent who can play a mean, tricky piano, is Chico. Harpo, aka The Professor, is the silent brother whose movements, facial expressions and sudden toots on a horn say everything that needs to be said. Zeppo's around, too, moving in and out of various characters. Few in the audience were around when the Marx Brothers first made their mark; most know the performers through reruns or later homages to their work. But everyone, young or old, laughed uproariously throughout. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through May 11, Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed April 17.
Dixie's Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull. We love Dixie — have since she invited us to Dixie's Tupperware Party a couple of years back (and then returned with the show again last month), calling people up from the audience, improvising seamlessly, indulging in bawdy humor and sharing with us everything about her trailer trash life. And we still love her now that she's back with a new show,
Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull, and other priceless pieces of advice gleaned from a long evening of boozing with her best friend. The friend is Georgia Jean, and the premise of this ninety-minute entertainment is that, having celebrated at a send-off party for Georgia Jean's coming wedding, we were all on our way to Mardi Gras in New Orleans when a storm blew up, making the road impassible. So now we're stuck watching Dixie clean up the bar. Still, you really couldn't ask for better company. Dixie's fascinating. She gets audience members up on stage playing games and dancing with her. She talks dirty. She makes innocent observations sound dirty, observing of the Fed Ex man, "I love when he delivers his package." She urges us to drink up because "the taller the glass, the closer to Jesus," and she comes up with a great crack about someone "happier than a Korean chef in a dog pound." Dixie hates lots of things, including the crusty bits of food dogs leave in the corners of their bowls, but she particularly hates children — with an unrelenting fury. Except she gets damp-eyed at the vision of a little boy surrounded by fireflies. In short, she's a complex being. Contradictory. Shameless. Funny as hell. And every now and then, she tosses out something that sounds suspiciously like wisdom. You can party with her through May 11 at the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org.
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A Round-Heeled Woman. Jane Juska's memoir, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, an account of her search for no-strings-attached sex, was a brave gamble — as was Edge Theatre's decision to produce the play based on the book. But Juska's gamble paid off, and so does this production. A retired high-school English teacher, Juska placed an ad in the
New York Review of Books
:"Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me." She received dozens of responses — some creepy, others interesting or touching — and she embarked on a series of affairs. At the point when she placed her ad, Juska hadn't had a date in thirty years. She did have a life, though. A principled and spirited woman, she escorted women through picket lines in front of abortion clinics; she taught creative writing to men on San Quentin's death row. In the play, the focus is far more on Jane's psyche than on her adventures, and the men are merely sketched in. As in the book, we get Jane's awareness that time is getting shorter, her ruefulness at what age is doing to her body, and the intense longing she feels to be held, have orgasms, be loved. But there's also a lot of psychobabble about her failed relationships and rage-filled son. Still, Juska's rich life experience, curiosity and humor do come through. Presented by the Edge Theatre through May 18, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, theedgetheatre.com. Reviewed May 1.