5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. "At the center, it's a really sweet love story — and the funniest show of the year. I actually think that's true. People who think women can't be funny? Well, they should come and take a look at this." That's director Edith Weiss's description of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, and Weiss knows all about funny: She made her living as a standup comic for years. The play takes place in 1956, during the height of the Cold War. "Everybody is in the closet, and this is a meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein," Weiss explains. "Everyone in the audience is at the meeting; it's quite interactive. This is their annual quiche breakfast. They almost worship, shall we say, the egg. Everybody has submitted a quiche, and they're going to pick the best one. The play has some huge surprises." Presented by the Avenue Theater through February 4, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, avenuetheater.com. Previewed January 25.
Charles Ives Take Me Home. There are only three characters in Charles Ives Take Me Home, now receiving its regional premiere at Curious Theatre Company, but you hear more than three voices. And while the plot can be explained in a few words, there are many levels of meaning within it. John Starr, a professional violinist who never got along with his sports-obsessed father, finds himself the father of a dedicated jock: Laura, a talented young basketball player, who eventually becomes a high-school coach. The third character is the spirit of Charles Ives, the turn-of-the-century composer thought of as the father of contemporary music and known for his use of dissonance and ability to bring differing styles and forms together. The two other characters — and they're almost as palpable as the flesh-and-blood actors — are basketball and music itself. When John picks up the violin, it comes alive. And Laura's thumping ball provides much of the play's rhythm and focus. Throughout, you get a sense of the playwright, Jessica Dickey, struggling to express some of the deepest truths of human existence: truths about art and sport, life and death, music and silence. Since these things cannot be articulated, she communicates them through the pure, clear sounds of the violin, the sound of the ball and Laura's take-no-prisoners approach to coaching. The direction is subtle and gutsy, and the cast — Dave Belden as John, Kate Berry as Laura and Jim Hunt as Ives — is first-rate. A beautiful play, beautifully performed. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 14, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Reviewed January 15.
Fiddler on the Roof. This production of Fiddler on the Roofdoes full justice to Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's brilliant songs, tells the evocative story with clarity and feeling, and also — uniquely — sounds the musical's deeper, darker chords. The action is set in a rural Russian Jewish community whose members can be quarrelsome and petty or generous and helpful, but always unified by timeless bonds of ritual and tradition. At the center of the community is Tevye, a poor milkman struggling to survive and with five daughters to worry about. His worries come to a head when the three eldest daughters, each in turn, defy his patriarchal authority: Instead of submitting to the manipulations of matchmaker Yente, Tzeitel chooses the tailor Motel and only then asks her father's permission; Hodel falls in love with radical Marxist Perchik and prepares to follow him wherever his revolutionary work leads; and, worst of all, Chava marries outside the faith, choosing a Russian soldier. A lot of Tevyes come across like Jewish Santa Clauses, but Wayne Kennedy's version is a different animal entirely. He gives the comedy its due but lets us see the profound sadness beneath the jovial exterior — and something more. This man is loving to his children, generous to the stranger — as Jews are historically required to be — and jokey and argumentative with God. But there are deep currents of rage coursing through his veins as he contemplates the loss of everything he's cherished, including his little bird, his daughter Chava. The entire cast is strong and conveys a sense of authenticity and respect for Jewish history, and the menace humming beneath the action reminds us of the real dangers of the pogroms. Presented by BDT Stage (formerly Boulder's Dinner Theatre) through February 28 at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder; for information, call 303-449-6000 or go to bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed December 4.
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking. The Broadway musical is a big, bloated, conventional, endlessly copycatting phenomenon that cries out to be skewered, and Forbidden Broadway — in various incarnations — has been busily skewering it for over three decades. Despite this, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking never feels packaged. Starring four of our brightest local talents, it's fresh, alive, and very, very funny. The roster of parodies takes in everything fromLes Misérablesthrough the Disney churn-outs to the serious, soulful Once, and the show manages to be savage without losing its good humor. If you hate the musical in question, you'll find the parody hilarious; the same is true if you love/hate it; and there's a subversive thrill in seeing even work you genuinely admire skillfully satirized. A couple of numbers miss, however. The Book of Mormon had to be in the mix, given its phenomenal success, but the song in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone exult in their own cleverness and wealth isn't nearly as funny as the musical itself. Still, most of the parodies sting beautifully. "On My Phone," sung by a bored Eponine texting away backstage in Les Mis, is a comedic gem. Then there's the jealousy duet between Chita Rivera, the first Anita in West Side Story, and Rita Moreno, who played the role in the movie, sung to the tune of "America." And no matter how often Wickedgets satirized, you can't prick that hot-air-filled balloon often enough. This show requires a lot of talent, and the performers have it in spades: splendid voices, clear enunciation (essential), charm and fearless comic chops. It all adds up to one of the brightest, sharpest, most entertaining evenings around. Presented by the Garner Galleria Theatre through March 1, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed December 25.