Macbeth. Setting Macbeth in the old West should work. From what we know, eleventh-century Scotland was a violent and lawless place, a place where the dirty, drunken louts and desperate whores of our own frontier days would fit right in. Unfortunately, director Geoffrey Kent's vision is far too literal and specific. In his version of the text, castles become ranches, swords bowies and pistols. "Macduff is fled to Durango," goes one memorable line. And it's hard not to laugh at the witches' solemn prophecy to Banquo: "Thou shalt get sheriffs, but not be one." The hyper-realistic set doesn't help. In this production, almost all the action takes place in the same carefully reproduced bar room: People drink, rampage, plot, fight and kill in this place. The Macbeths live here, and so do the Macduffs — that is, when the witches aren't haunting the room, or it isn't the site of an epic battle. Kent has provided a subtext to the Macbeths' villainy: Apparently they've either lost a child or been unable to conceive one. It's not a bad idea, but the tiny cowboy boot meant to represent the absent infant is. Some of the cast members overact; the efforts of others are almost lost amid all the romping, stomping action. Presented by Listen Productions through November 17, Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street, 720-290-1104, www.cowboymacbeth.org. Reviewed November 1.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since her death in Gaza in 2003, when the 23-year-old was run over by an Israeli soldier as she attempted to prevent the bulldozing of a Palestinian home. But Corrie was more than just a symbol; she was a genuinely unique young spirit. This play was put together by English actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katharine Viner from Corrie's journals and e-mails; it's clear that the world lost a lot when it lost this strong, individual voice. Much of the power of this production stems from the fact that you can't separate what you're seeing on stage from what you know —- that this marvelous young woman, who spoke of death and hope in the same breathless moment, would die a cruel, violent death. "Love you. Really miss you," she wrote in a letter to her mother. "I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside." With her graceful hands and gentle dignity, Julie Rada perfectly embodies the character of Rachel. Director Brian Freeland gives us just enough light to provide a clear view of Rada's face, and she pitches her voice just loud enough to be heard comfortably, but you still have to lean in a little to catch everything. Along with the simplicity of the set, this restraint adds to the power of the evening. Presented by Countdown to Zero through November 17, Bindery/space, 770 22nd Street, 720-938-0466, www.countdowntozero.org. Reviewed October 4. Special program after the Saturday, November 10, performance: "Choices in the Hotbed: Looking for Peace in the Land of Conflict," a panel featuring Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni of the Abrahamic Initiative at St. John's Cathedral; Robert Prince, University of Denver Graduate School for International Studies; Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh; and Westword critic Juliet Wittman. Buntport Theater's Evan Weissman will moderate.
The Night Heron. The setting is a hovel in England's Cambridgeshire fens, the protagonists a pair of gardeners who have lost their jobs at Cambridge University — Wattmore because of accusations concerning a ten-year-old boy, Griffin because of his loyalty to Wattmore. The two men are close and protective of each other against an undefined menace, an evil that presses against their windows — and that eventually enters in the person of Bolla Fogg, an ex-con or perhaps an escapee, a lumpy, mean-tempered potato of a woman with a very shaky hold on her own sanity. A night heron has strayed onto the fens, and a hundred pounds is being offered for a photograph. Unfortunately, the men have no camera. Griffin is also interested in a poetry competition sponsored by Cambridge that comes with a 2,000-pound reward. A lot of England's hot young playwrights trade in mindless violence, and The Night Heron does contain some, though for the most part what we get is memories and intimations of violence. At the same time, the characters possess a profound longing for grace, and on one level, the entire play represents a struggle between good and evil. There's Christian imagery all over, as well as talk of gardens and passages of poetry. All this could signify a writer trying to bring meaning and coherence to a plot that we in the audience can never quite grasp. But that isn't the case: The metaphysics are core-deep, the play is firmly grounded in character and place, and all the performances are excellent, thick with meaning and conviction. Presented by Paragon Theatre through November 10, Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 303-300-2210, www.paragontheatre.org. Reviewed October 25.
Some Girls. Guy, now in his early forties, has a habit of loving and leaving his women; he holds out promises of long-term commitment but tends to vanish when things get serious. Shortly before his planned marriage to an almost-23-year-old nurse, he decides to look up four of his past paramours and set things right with them. The play is set in four almost-identical hotel rooms in four cities, and the women with whom Guy has his assignations could have come from central casting. There's the high-school sweetheart who never got over him, as well as the sexy free spirit, the icily intellectual professor and the spirited doctor. Every one of these women exacts some form of revenge, whether minor or more significant. Playwright Neil LaBute is known for his penetrating and invigorating nastiness. But while Some Girls carries a bit of a sting, it's not particularly shocking, more like a series of Sex and the City episodes — if you can imagine them being smarter and tougher. If Some Girls is not particularly deep, however, at least it's a very entertaining representation of the daunting, painful and exciting cha-cha between attraction and repulsion danced by courting couples. Presented by Firehouse Theater Company through November 10, John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place. 303-562-3232, www.johnhandtheater.com. Reviewed November 1.