Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Hidden away on the dark northwest side of the Denver Performing Arts Complex is the little Jones Theatre (known as the Source when the facility was originally built), which has always seemed like an afterthought with its shadowy, back-door locale. But what goes on here might be one of the best deals in town: clever performance- and improv-based events that usually cost between $10 and $20 and often include a reception as well as entertainment, all under the umbrella of Off-Center @ the Jones. Curated by Denver Center Theatre Company projection designer Charlie Miller and DCTC artistic associate Emily Tarquin, the series includes Cult Following, a monthly "live movie" improv party with free popcorn, the current Square of Ice battle-of-the-bands Johnny Cash spoof, and a changing palette of little plays and performances like DATE*, coming up in April, which is based on real stories about Internet dating. Quirky, funny and cutting-edge, Off-Center definitely lives up to its name.
We take care of our own. While this notion has always held true in Denver, the sentiment was never driven home more convincingly than when 3 Kings Tavern co-owner Jim Norris was unexpectedly hospitalized after being bitten by a brown recluse spider. Norris spent nearly a week in the hospital, racking up a mountain of bills. But soon after news of his dilemma spread, a number of good friends, including Jerri Thiel and John Baxter, organized a series of benefits for the local music champion, and tons of bands stepped in to lend a hand. Way to go, Denver.
When the property that once held Time Capsule Studios — the iconic recording facility where a number of classic Denver albums were recorded — went into foreclosure and was taken over by the bank last May, Martin Anderson, a real-estate agent charged with overseeing the sale of the building, discovered what he suspected to be master recording reels left behind. Sensing that these tapes might contain irreplaceable recordings — with sentimental value for those who recorded them, if nothing else — he made arrangements for the tapes to be salvaged by Haylar Garcia, whose band Hippie Werewolves had recorded at Time Capsule, and whose Decibel Garden Studios agreed to serve as custodian of the reels at no charge. As a result, classic recordings from the likes of the Fluid and Christie Front Drive were saved.
Wealthy Victor is living the expatriate's dream in 1960s Europe, but he's very, very sad, nonetheless: His mistress Louise has just refused his offer of marriage. So he has come to the elegant cafe he owns in Paris intending to starve himself to death. The staff is horrified. They suggest feeding him an imaginary banquet, plate by luscious plate, in hopes of changing his mind. As Victor in the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's production of An Empty Plate in the Cafe de Grand Boeuf, John Arp sampled each imaginary dish judiciously (Arp is actually a trained chef), and while he did, he dictated his obituary to the distressed waiter. This is a character who could easily seem tedious and narcissistic, but Arp played him with such warmth and intelligence that you couldn't help hoping Louise would accept him — and that he'd have a bite to eat.
9 Circles, which had its regional premiere at Curious Theatre Company, is based on a real-life atrocity in Iraq: an incident in which a United States soldier entered a family home, raped and killed the fourteen-year-old daughter, killed both her parents and her six-year-old sister, then attempted to burn her body. Taking us into this man's mind is a serious challenge. As Daniel Reeves, Sean Scrutchins needed to be twitchy and almost blurrily out of focus at first, and then, by turns, difficult, belligerent, humorous, unaware and in a state of deep denial. Scrutchins was all this — and then he took us by the throat for the play's terrifying final scene, shaking us out of our complacency and then setting us back down again, forever changed.
The character of Coalhouse Walker towers over the musical Ragtime, a panoramic take on the history of the early twentieth century based on the E.L. Doctorow novel. We are shown Walker's patient and ultimately victorious courtship of Sarah, the mother of his child; his pride, the insults he endures, and then his violent radicalization. When the actor scheduled to play Walker developed throat problems, understudy Tyrone Robinson took over the role of Walker a short time before Ragtime opened at the Arvada Center for the Arts. Tall and imposing, cocky and vulnerable, he gave full expression to the character's fierce tenderness and ambiguous morality, and his powerful, expressive voice commanded the stage.