Denver's fall theater season is already off to a hot and heavy start with offerings of every stripe, from classically funny (The Liar and Unnecessary Farce) to explosive (Justin Bieber Meets Al Qaeda) to thought-provoking (Clybourne Park) to just plain silly (Completely Hollywood (abridged)). And due to the wealth of theatrical riches our city has to offer, there's even more. Here are some good bets. The Arvada Center, from which we've come to expect well-heeled blockbuster musicals over the last few years, is starting its season in just that way, with the regional premiere staging of the Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime. A big, bustling production based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow and set in New York City in the early 20th-century, Ragtime mixes history with intertwining fictional stories and a trolley-full of characters, a feat that requires a strong cast. Director Rod Lansberry says that's just what he got, but you should see for yourself. And if you miss it this time around, Ragtime will travel later this fall to the new Lone Tree Art Center for a second run.
It's not too late to consider the repercussions of 9/11 ten years later by catching Firehouse Theater Company's production of The Guys (though Westword's Juliet Wittman wasn't quite sure it succeeded), a play based on conversations between a New York City fire captain and the writer who helped him find the words to eulogized eight men he'd lost. It was made into a movie with Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia in 2002, which was perhaps a better time for it, but if you're looking for some way to remember, here's your chance. The Guys ends its run at the John Hand Theater on Saturday. At the Aurora Fox, Rashomon, based on the classic film by Akira Kurosawa in which the story of a crime is told from four differing points of view, opening last weekend for a season-opening run. With sets and costuming true to those of the film, the play also channels its stark poetry. "Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves," is how Kurosawa chose to explain it himself. "They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings - the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are." Rashomon continues through October 9.
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And not too far down the road at the Dayton Street Theater, Afterthought Theatre Company is romping its way through a run of The Wiz, with a production famously starring Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee and her big, big voice as Glinda. That alone should be enough to convince you to see it, even if Lee is moonlighting in Aurora; shows run through September 24.
Apples from the Desert, a comedy with Israeli roots, trips lightly over religious conflicts and gender gap issues in this collaboration between Theatre Or, a local company working with Judaic themes, and the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, which opened last weekend. Denver's Terry Dodd directs, but the original director, Israeli Oded Kotler, will be in town for talkbacks throughout the coming weekend. See Apples from the Desert through November 6, in the Mizel Center's Pluss Theater.