Yes, yes, Hamilton is here, and it's as magical as you've heard...so if you haven't managed to snag a ticket yet, don't forget that there's a lottery for every performance. Check the box office, too: As the Denver Center for the Performing Arts finds tickets sold to scalpers, it's putting them back on the legitimate market, so you'll want to visit the DCPA's Hamilton site. Remember, there are many other worthy productions on local stages, including A Kid Like Jake, which closes this weekend. Keep reading for capsule reviews of seven shows now around town.
A Kid Like Jake. Alex is determined to get Jake, her four-year-old son, into a top kindergarten, and while Greg, her good-natured husband, supports the goal, he’s also trying to temper Alex’s increasingly obsessive approach to the application process. One concern is Jake’s love of princesses and all things girly. Preschool teacher Judy, who knows Jake well and has some influence in the kindergarten world, advises the family that in this day and age, their son’s proclivity for “gender variant play” is likely to be seen as a plus rather than a problem. A Kid Like Jake starts on a low, naturalistic key. But just as you’re wondering why you should empathize with this neurotic mother or be concerned about where a four-year-old goes to kindergarten, the play begins to reveal a powerful undertow. Alex becomes pregnant, and in her reaction we come to understand her frantic behavior and Jake’s difficulties. It obviously isn’t easy for a child who’s trying to figure out who he is to understand the differences between himself and his peers. Between his mother’s controlling rigidity and his classmates’ teasing, Jake — whom we never see — becomes agitated and distressed. The theme of motherhood itself underlies the script: the profound and conflicted emotions mothers feel toward their children, the power of motherhood to both nurture and destroy. Director Warren Sherrill’s casting is impeccable, and with this thought-provoking and well-executed production, Benchmark has announced itself as a company to be watched, and a welcome addition to the Denver theater community. Presented by Benchmark Theatre through March 24, 1560 Teller Street in Lakewood, benchmarktheatre.com. Read the full review of A Kid Like Jake.
All My Sons. The actors in the Arvada Center’s All My Sons give fine performances, and their passion brings vivid life to Arthur Miller’s play about war, corporate profiteering and the effect of one man’s moral lapse on his family and community. Miller’s exploration of the darker side of the American dream is particularly telling because the play premiered two years after the end of World War Two, in 1947. Joe Keller is an affable, small-town everyman, who’s worked hard for his family’s security. But as head of a factory during the war, he knowingly okayed a shipment of cracked cylinder heads for P-40 planes, causing the death of 21 pilots. Further, he let his partner, Steve Deever, take the blame and, as the play opens, Deever is serving a prison sentence.
All My Sons asks searching questions about what human beings owe each other and what constitutes an ethical life. Joe is at the heart of the corruption, but no one in his world is innocent, from the neighbors who understood what had happened at the factory but decided to put aside their concerns and maintain peace to Joe’s wife, Kate, frantic to believe Larry is still alive. In a single day, events hurtle toward revelation and, with an authorial nod to Greek tragedy, retribution: To cleanse his small kingdom and allow his family a measure of peace, Joe must fall. In the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre through May 3, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of All My Sons.
Always...Patsy Cline. After Louise Seger heard Patsy Cline singing “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957, she became a devoted and committed fan, eventually pestering her local radio station in Houston to play Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” every morning. Seger met Cline when she performed at the Esquire Ballroom, and the two became fast friends. The true-life relationship between these two women provides the framework for this musical, and if the script, based on letters and an interview with Seger, doesn’t do it much justice, that doesn’t really matter, because the evening is all about music. The songs — ranging from country to pop, with a touch of Cole Porter (“True Love”) — are well chosen, and the wonderful Norrell Moore plays Patsy Cline. Presented by BDT Stage through May 20, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the full review of Always...Patsy Cline.
The Electric Baby. This regional premiere at the Arvada Center is filled with myth, fantasy and story. Jessica Robblee is wonderful as Natalia, a Romanian mother keeping watch beside her dying child — who’s represented by a small form attached to glowing white tube, a baby already half in another world. She’s joined by a fascinating group of characters, brought together the uncontainable rage and grief of another mother, Helen, over the loss of her own child: Ambimbola, the cab driver who crashed in an attempt to avoid Helen as she either fell or deliberately stepped into the road; and passengers Rozie, a prostitute, and Dan, expressing their longtime friendship through drunken cursing and mutual abuse....until Dan is killed in the accident. Author Stefanie Zadravec has created lively and absorbing scenes, and the supernatural is always present, along with the elemental grief of mothers who have lost their children. But in the end, imagery takes the place of structure, depth and resolution. Presented through May 4 at the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of The Electric Baby.
First Date: A Musical Comedy. Casey and Aaron have been set up on a crucial first date at a restaurant, even though they seem mismatched: He’s a serious guy with a steady job in finance who hates blind dates; she’s what he eventually terms — though having uttered the term, he hastily retreats from it — a “blind-date slut.” He wears a suit; she’s in ripped leggings and has some vaguely defined job at a gallery. Like all human beings, both are dogged by their pasts and the people in them — friends, previous lovers, parents — and all of these characters appear during the evening to berate, confuse or encourage the couple. For Casey, it’s sister Lauren who’s most persistent; Lauren has children and a nice stable marriage — a status both sisters see as ultimately desirable — and she wants the same for Casey. But Lauren’s not nearly as persistent as Allison, the bossy, manipulative woman Aaron almost married. Casey has a gay best friend who provides a handful of bail-out calls over the evening — though she soon decides she doesn’t want to be bailed out. She’s also distracted by the memory of a couple of bad boys she was attracted to, the kind of guys good girls always want to save. The topics touched on in the script aren’t very original — commitment phobia, the ticking biological clock, female self-consciousness about eating on a first date (will he think less of her if she tears into a burger?), wild girl versus repressed businessman. Does Aaron actually care about corporate finance? Is Casey really into anything arty, aside from her cunningly slit tights? If they felt more like real people, we’d care more about whether they connect or not. Still, the show works because of the talent on stage, and should be a perfect date for anyone wanting to slip off their shoes under the table, sip a cocktail, and recover from a taxing day at work. Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through April 22 at the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Read the review of First Date: A Musical Comedy.
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The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures. Tonky Kushner's play now showing at Curious Theatre is a huge, nourishing and gut-punch wallop of an evening. The plot concerns Gus, a one-time longshoreman and union organizer, now retired, who says he has Alzheimer’s and is contemplating suicide. Gus has three children:labor attorney Empty, his quarrelsome daughter who’s determined to keep him alive; weak-willed son Pill, living with long-time partner Paul but in love with Eli, a rent boy; and Vito, a genuine working stiff. If you’ve ever been part of the left, you recognize Gus, an idealist and formidable organizer who stiffens into self-righteous didacticism when faced with human need. He’s a terrible father. Gus’s children aren’t every nice, either. But they are interesting, and so are such lesser characters as Gus’s sister Clio, who has been a nun and also a member of the Shining Path, a guerrilla group in Peru guilty of appalling atrocities (as was the government they opposed). Maeve, Empty’s lover, is heavily pregnant by Vito, who was meant to just donate sperm but made his contribution more personally. She’s brainy, pretentious and floridly dramatic but Empty, more dedicated to her politics than her partner, ignores her. The play's scope and ambition are admirable, and this production first-rate. The language makes you want to acquire the script and, having read it cover to cover, watch the show all over again. In an era when — as Gus laments — working people seem to have lost all power, it tells so much about the now overlooked history of labor and the once prevalent dream of equality, with hard-eyed wisdom rather than dreamy romanticism. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through April 15, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the review of The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide.
Sense and Sensibility. Kate Hamill’s play Sense and Sensibility isn’t the Jane Austen you’re used to, those gracefully-written novels filled with a sly, quiet humor and canny observations about late eighteenth-century society. Yet in many ways this staged version is faithful to its source. It follows the plot closely, simplifying only enough to fit the narrative into a two-hour timeframe. The visual elements are stylish and beautifully balanced, but in other ways the production is an all-out farce, with crazily over-the-top acting, and characters morphing periodically into cats, dogs, high-stepping horses, even chickens. The pretty period furniture is almost a character in itself, as it skids and skitters about or is wheeled from place to place.At the story’s center are the two Dashwood sisters: young, romantic and emotional Marianne, who represents sensibility, and dignified Elinor, embodying sense. Marianne is drawn to dashing Willoughby, who turns out to be a cad, and uninterested in the devoted Colonel Brandon — a perfect gentleman but one she considers ancient at 35. Elinor loves Edward Ferrars, who’s tethered to a long-ago commitment; she suffers in silence. Two themes predominate. One is the prevalence of gossip in this world. No matter what’s happening between the couples, someone seems to be watching, tittering, passing on the news. The second theme concerns money. In Austen’s time, love was shaped, driven or destroyed by money — its lack or possession. A man with no money had no hope of finding a wife; there were very few ways for an impecunious women to keep body and soul together. All the hilarity would be tiresome without real feeling to ground it, but fortunately Geoffrey Kent’s Colonel Brandon is a rock of subdued kindness throughout. And when Edward finally tells Elinor he loves her, Jessica Robblee utters a cry — a sort of cross between a sob and a whomp — that tells us everything about the storm of emotion she’s been concealing the entire time. Presented by the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre through May 6, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of Sense and Sensibility.