The theater season is winding down, but there are still worthwhile shows around town. Keep reading for mini-reviews of three productions on local stages.
Cabaret. Len Matheo’s Cabaret is by far the clearest, most intelligent and most exciting I’ve seen. The musical, which premiered in 1966 and has been through several incarnations since, is based on Christopher Isherwood’s autobiographical novel Berlin Stories, about his experiences in that city during the early 1930s, as Hitler was seizing power. In the musical, Isherwood’s stand-in is Clifford Bradshaw, a young American writer. Arriving in Berlin, he wanders into the seedy Kit Kat Klub and encounters all kinds of interesting characters, the most interesting being the androgynous Emcee and Sally Bowles, a flighty, hedonistic English singer. In many productions, the scenes at Fräulein Schneider’s boardinghouse — where Clifford and Sally’s storyline unfolds, along with the touching subplot between their landlady and her suitor, the fruit seller Herr Schultz — are far less vivid than the sleazy world of the Kit Kat Klub. But here these scenes are given full weight because the acting is strong. Clifford is often portrayed as an all-American kid, an innocent thrust into a decaying and decadent world, but Luke Sorge’s portrayal is deeper and more complex. Isherwood wrote Sally Bowles as a lost, narcissistic kid, oblivious to what’s going on around her, an untalented singer though an oddly mesmerizing performer. Adriane Wilson is very beautiful, and as a singer, she owns the stage. When she cuts loose on “Cabaret,” voice filled with defiance, pain, despair and perhaps a trace of affirmation, she blows the roof off. In the dramatic scenes, she’s most effective when silently reacting to others — you can read exactly what Sally’s feeling on her face. I liked the dedication and total immersion of the Kit Kat girls and boys. Also Tim Fishbaugh as the puppyishly smiling, ignorantly brave Herr Schultz, courting Kristen Samu's stern but ultimately yielding Fräulein Schneider with apples, oranges and — wonder of wonder in those gray times — a pineapple. I’ve seen some Emcees who are almost supernatural, leering embodiments of evil, but Jim Walker’s Emcee is quite evidently human. Tall and lithe, prancing and shimmying, delighting in other people’s pain, he rules the Kit Kat Klub with gleeful depravity, taking huge pleasure in his own outrageousness, grabbing breasts, butts and crotches. Large segments of the alt-right, America’s incipient fascist movement, have taken on cartoonish memes such as Pepe the Frog, priding themselves on their humorous use of irony. Walker’s hypnotically loathsome Emcee seems cut from the same cloth. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through June 25, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, minersalley.com. Read the review of Cabaret.
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The Crud. Buntport Theater's work is always newly minted, nonlinear, rich in metaphor. Still, I can usually ferret out some kind of narrative. But in The Crud, which is based on objects found in a storage locker, there’s no real through-line or progression I could find. That's to be expected, I suppose, since the play’s oft-repeated catchphrase is “Time passes,” after which someone in the four-member cast will inevitably observe that nothing changes. Not that there’s anything sloppy or tentative about this production. It has moments that hint at tremendous insight — insight you never quite get but know is hovering in the air between you and the playing space. The acting is brilliant, and Brian Colonna, Erin Rollman, Hannah Duggan and Erik Edborg (the offstage co-creator is SamAnTha Schmitz) work together with the kind of rhythm and mutual understanding that only comes from long and trusting collaboration. The crud itself is a huge pile of cast-off objects, toys, appliances, belonging to three very peculiar people. First is Barely Bear (Duggan), who’s covered in dolls and stuffed toys. Dear Deer (Rollman) wears a horned horse’s head and a skirt made of rustling newspaper and magazine pages. Then there’s the Broken Baby Doll Detective (Colonna), who behaves like a Raymond Chandler character but carries an armless-doll version of himself on his shoulder. The objects on the pile keep disappearing, and it turns out they’re being squirreled away by I Have No Name (Edborg) to a misty place of forgotten memories behind a scrim. All confusion aside, it’s hugely entertaining to watch these amazing characters, and the visuals are stunning. The scrim separating present from past, and through which you see everyone’s actions slightly distorted, creates a misty, shape-changing fairytale world. This is Waiting for Godot as written by Edward Lear. Presented by Buntport Theater through June 10, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, buntport.com.
The Luckiest People. Oscar is the elderly father at the heart of Meridith Friedman’s The Luckiest People. His beloved wife, Dorothy, has recently died, and he is in an assisted-living facility, resolutely refusing to engage in any activities and making endless demands on his middle-aged son, Richard. The demand that shocks Richard most is Oscar’s insistence that he’ll soon be moving into the apartment that Richard shares with his good-natured lover, David. Richard and David are in the process of adopting a six-year-old boy, and they have no idea how they’ll be able to accommodate this querulous, elderly second child. Richard’s sister, Laura, lives with her Chinese husband in Shanghai and is visiting California only now that their mother’s funeral is safely over. You can see Oscar’s harmful influence in Richard’s problems communicating with David, as well as in Laura’s ambivalence toward her husband and child, a little boy she both loves and resents. The Luckiest People focuses more on relationships than action. Although there are a couple of furious blow-ups that erupt almost without warning, most of the evening is filled with apparently mundane talk — of sitting shiva and how to conduct a minyan, what kind of bagels everyone wants. But while this is an essentially quiet play, it’s never boring. Beneath the surface lie depth charges primed to explode later in your mind, because Friedman is dealing with questions about life and death, the ways we find to live with each, and the profound nature of love itself. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through June 17, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the review of The Luckiest People.
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