Girls Only. The trouble with Girls Only, a two-woman evening of skits, singing, improvisation and audience participation, is that it's so relentlessly nice. Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein have worked together for many years; at some point, they read their early diaries to each other and were transfixed by the similarities and differences they found. This piece was developed from that material — but not all of it. "I purposely don't read every diary entry in the show, because it turns out I was kind of mean, and I don't want to be mean," Klein told an intervsiewer. But mean is funny, and when you cut it out entirely, what do you have to joke about? There's enough good material here for a tight, funny, one-hour-long show, but this one stretches on and on, as if Klein and Gehring were determined to throw every single joke and bit of shtick that occurred to them in the script. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through June 27, Garner Galleria Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed September 18, 2008.
Jugged Rabbit Stew. For this original musical, the Buntport Theater crew took an absurd idea and then — instead of playing around a bit, giggling and letting it go — decided to carry it forward, step by step, to the logical and intensely illogical ending. Under the sunnily innocent surface of Jugged Rabbit Stew is a darker underlay, an underlay involving blood, dismemberment, the way humanity destroys its gods, predation and carnivorousness — which takes on a whole new dimension when the meat in question not only walks and talks like a man, but can perform astounding feats of magic. All of this is pounded home by Adam Stone's inspired rock songs. The plot concerns Snowball, a giant rabbit who works with a magician called Alec the Amazing and All-Powerful. At his best, Alec can pull off only the simplest sleights of hand; Snowball is the genuine magical power behind the act. This bunny is anything but sweet and fluffy, however. He's a miserable, scruffy creature who likes making others unhappy. The production underlines its own artificiality, satirizing magic shows and theatrical conventions in general and examining the ways we use language to create story and propel action, with Woman at one point discussing with Snowball whether he's the classical noble-but-with-a-fatal-flaw tragic hero, the moody, romantic Byronic hero, or a twentieth-century anti-hero. One of the deepest, weirdest, funniest and most assured shows Buntport has ever done. Presented by Buntport Theater through June 19, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed May 20.
Peter Pan. The folks at Boulder's Dinner Theatre approach Peter Pan with such imagination, intelligence, respect and giddy exuberance that you can't help enjoying yourself. Little boys are sure to love Captain Hook and the ferocious crocodile with the clock ticking away inside him. And how could any little girl resist the idea of flying off into the night in search of adventure with a white-nightgowned Wendy, and being so loved and needed by the Lost Boys? Not to mention Nana, the fluffy white dog who serves as the children's caretaker. The only drawback is the depiction of Native Americans, who are shown as pure 1950s Disney figures, wearing long black wigs and fringed costumes, drumming, chanting and singing a ghastly song called "Ugh-a-Wug." Still, there are loads of good things about the production, and J.M. Barrie's words still cast a spell. Director Scott Beyette and his actors even respect the story's darker overtones: Captain Hook may be a pussycat and the battles staged to be comic, but the story's psychological ambiguities seep through. As played by Joanie Brosseau-Beyette, Peter Pan is a tough little customer who can wreak havoc if he wants, and who has very little loyalty or conscience. This is offset by Brosseau-Beyette's cheekiness and charm, as well as her terrific singing voice. Best of all is the flying. It doesn't matter that you know it's coming; it doesn't matter that you can see the lines attached to the actors' backs. When Peter Pan rises into the air and Wendy, John and Michael follow — startled, kicking and laughing — it's pure magic. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 4, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdunnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 3.
Up. In 1982, an ordinary guy named Larry Walters, obsessed with fantasies of flight, tied helium balloons to a lawn chair, and equipped himself with water bottles for ballast and a pellet gun to deflate the balloons as needed for descent. Walters expected to float perhaps thirty feet into the air, but instead ascended 16,000 feet at breathtaking speed. Playwright Bridget Carpenter deals with the aftermath of this adventure, stressing the dreariness and smallness of everyday life as her hero, Walter Griffin, refuses to get a job and fights to keep his dream of invention alive. The famed tightrope walk of Philippe Petit between the Twin Towers serves as a metaphoric link, and Petit periodically appears, walking a light-illuminated, simulated tightrope above the stage, to encourage Griffin in his dreams of flight. Despite some interesting interweaving of themes, almost everything in the script is deployed too narrowly in the service of the central idea, which means the characters never come alive or surprise you. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through June 18, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed May 20.