Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
With Denver being a key stop in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Colorado found its place on the hipster map. Los Angeles-based conceptualist Ed Ruscha, himself a hipster's hipster, did a series of works on paper that incorporated quotes from the novel and placed them across photos of Western landscapes or related abstracts. They're classic post-pop Ruschas, with the text floating at the surface and the image receding behind it. Ruscha's work has been exhibited in Denver many times before, but here it was recast as Western art, simply by having been installed in the Denver Art Museum's Western art galleries. Indeed, curator Thomas Smith pulled off a sleight of hand, furthering an idea that's been catching on in the last few years: that by working in the West, Ruscha is just as Western as Frederic Remington was.
William Havu brought together three of the state's top abstract artists last spring. The main event was Amy Metier. Metier begins with an actual subject, and then, using her expressive brushwork, turns it into an abstract composition; though more representational than usual for her, these paintings were still very much a part of her classic style. Meanwhile, the floors at Havu were filled with small, simple sculptures based on organic shapes by Michael Clapper. One of Clapper's greatest strengths is the way he combines different materials. Finishing off the trio were Emilio Lobato's recent wall relief sculptures made of found materials.
When beloved local songwriter Mike Marchant was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, the scene immediately rose up to support him. A part of Denver music for the past decade and a half, Marchant is known not only for his never-ending creative endeavors — in Widowers, Houses, Mike Marchant's Outer Space Party Unit and more — but also for his kind heart. Like many creative types, Marchant is uninsured, but the amount of support coming in from the numerous benefit concerts, comedy nights and variety shows that sprung up within weeks of his diagnosis has been nothing short of miraculous. It pays to be kind, and this selfless musician would surely do the same if he were in someone else's shoes.
The story behind The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is told as a series of monologues by a Puerto Rican kid called Macedonio Guerra, or Mace. Mace was fascinated by professional wrestling as a kid and grew up to be a part of that world. But only as a literal fall guy — the opponent routinely demolished by such stars as Chad Deity, a man who knows how to put on a terrific show but can't really fight worth a lick. It takes a lot of charm to keep audiences engaged through these long, often expository monologues, and serious acting chops to bring across Mace's emotional life and the way he longs less for his own turn in the spotlight than for some kind of truth in the over-hyped, stereotype-ridden sport he loves. Lopez managed all of this in the Curious Theatre production and pulled off some cool wrestling moves in the process.
James O'Hagan Murphy provided a complex portrait of a complex man in RFK. Robert Kennedy is remembered for his tragic assassination and venerated as the ideal president-who-should-have-been. But he possessed less pleasant characteristics, too: utter ruthlessness in pursuit of power; spurts of pettiness and jealousy; a profound loathing (entirely reciprocated) for Lyndon Baines Johnson. Kennedy tapped Martin Luther King's phone, and it took him some time to become an advocate for civil rights. But once he did, he fought for them passionately. In Murphy's authoritative performance in this Vintage Theatre production, all of the man's depths and ambiguities were made clear. And Kennedy's grief as he stood over the coffin of his murdered brother seared the soul.
Erick Devine exuded kindness and humanity as Kris Kringle in the Arvada Center's Miracle on 34th Street. He has a big, rich baritone, and his portrayal brought so much warmth to the show that when he told little Susan he really was Santa Claus, you didn't doubt it for a moment.