Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The life of the Vic — a 75-seat theater in the basement of a Victorian house in northwest Denver — was closely interwoven with the history of the city. The venue was created by a Shakespeare-loving tuberculosis patient named George Swartz, who moved to Denver for the climate and loved reading the plays to his friends. In the 1950s, Paul Willett took over the space, transformed it into the Gaslight Theatre, and ran it for almost twenty years. After his death, it became the Denver Victorian Playhouse, and then, after its purchase by Wade and Lorraine Wood in 2005, the Denver Vic. In this venue, the Woods staged everything from an evening of Tom Lehrer to John B. Keane's searing The Field — but they never figured out the formula for keeping the place solvent. Early last year, they put the building that housed the Vic up for sale, and the buyers turned it back into a single-family dwelling. And so that creaky, ghost-ridden, venerable old landmark of a theater — where Swartz's friends once gathered for Shakespeare evenings and contemporary audiences sipped tea and nibbled cookies during intermissions — has slipped into the history.
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.