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Playbill: Three Shows to See in Denver This Weekend

Whether you're looking for the element of surprise inherent in an off-the-cuff improv riff, a laugh-out-loud good time as light as a perfect summer evening or a chilling comedy about a woman who obsessively answers a dead man's phone, it's all yours this weekend. Read on for the details.

See also: Stories On Stage Writing Contest Seeking Upbeat Tales

Smile Train Comedy Improv Festival Various Denver locations Through August 17 Visit website for details and tickets

Smile Train, the world's largest cleft-repair charity, brings back its annual improv fest for the seventh year, featuring hilarious performances by a gaggle of the area's longest-lived improv artists and companies at venues all over town. Tonight, catch the last of three evenings at Spark Theater (the Monkey's Uncle troupe will take the stage; admission is $10); after a dark night tomorrow, shows include a free night with Junk Drawer at the D Note in Arvada on Friday, followed by the Wigs at Denver Bookbinding on Saturday ($20) and again on Sunday for the finale at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret ($15). Have a laugh and fix a smile.

Continue reading for more Playbill picks.

Sylvia Avenue Theater Preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 14 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, August 15 through September 6 Also: 4 p.m. Sundays, August 17 and 24 and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, August 28 and September 4 $16.50 to $26.50 303-321-5925

Denver audiences just can't get enough of Sylvia, A. R. Gurney's beloved comedy about a dog -- played by a human -- who drives a big, sloppy spike between the couple that adopts her: Greg, an exec, and his wife, Kate. The Avenue unleashes a veteran cast that includes Amie MacKenzie as Sylvia, John Ashton as Greg and Tupper Cullum in a variety of roles in this lovely walk in the park. Good dog!

Theater Company of Lafayette, Dead Man's Cell Phone Mary Miller Theater 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, August 15 through September 6 Also 2 p.m. Sunday, August 24, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 4 $10 to $16 720-209-2154

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Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone takes a dark turn when a woman finds herself in possession of a cell phone belonging to a dead man and begins answering his calls. This leads to her insinuation into the man's circle of loved ones -- a sort of physical manifestation of what happens when people connect through technology.

Find a stage near you: Check out Westword's online listings for more theater and dance events for this week.

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