Take in a show this holiday weekend! Here are capsule reviews of two shows on local stages:
The Humans. Stephen Karam’s The Humans won a Tony, was a finalist for the Pulitzer and earned glowing reviews from critics, though I’m not sure why. A family is meeting at the Manhattan Chinatown apartment of Brigid and Rich, the boyfriend that Brigid’s mother, Deirdre, thinks she should marry. It consists of paterfamilias Erik; Deirdre; Brigid’s sister, Aimee; and Momo, Erik’s mother. Head drooping, confined to a wheelchair, Momo, who suffers from dementia, warns us early in the evening, “You can never come back. You can never come back.” Her words are prophetic. Everyone has a secret; everyone is worried, and most of these worries are caused by economic insecurity. No one wants to put Momo in a nursing home, but caring for her at home is increasingly difficult, and home care costs hundreds of dollars. Aimee suffers from a chronic ailment and has lost her job at a law firm because of the time she’s had to take off work. Brigid and Rich are struggling with student loans. These people genuinely love one another, and real tenderness throbs beneath their attempts to conceal their fears and their frequent sniping, but the characters never come to life. I can't figure out whether the fault lies with the playwright or with the direction; perhaps The Humans would coruscate in other hands, or perhaps weaknesses in the script tripped up the players at Curious. Either way, this production disappoints.
Presented by Curious Theatre Company through December 22, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the full review of The Humans.
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Xanadu. In this musical (based on a bad movie of the same name), Sonny, an idealistic young artist in Los Angeles, hates his own work, suffers severe doubts about his talent and is suicidal until he’s visited by the muse Clio. She appears to be Australian and glides around on roller skates. Together they decide to create a place where all the arts can meet, a roller disco featuring music, dance, painting, movies and poetry. But there’s a glitch: Clio has two jealous sisters, fellow muses Calliope and Melpomene, and they’re determined to bring about her downfall. Which shouldn’t be too hard: Muses are forbidden to dabble in the arts and also prohibited from falling in love with human beings, and from Sonny and Clio’s first meeting, it's clear that she’ll rapidly violate both these rules, piss off her father, Zeus, and end up banished to the underworld. The script is silly but stylish, and the performers superb. Lauren Shealy, who plays Clio, is a local treasure. She has a fine, supple singing voice, is funny as hell, and turns out to be graceful even on roller skates. In short shorts and a tank top, Marco Robinson as Sonny shows off biceps, triceps and lats, as well as leg muscles we didn't known existed. Sarah Rex gets to exercise all her comic chops as Calliope, and they’re impressive. We last saw Sheryl McCallum, now playing Melpomene, as a dignified Aunt Eller in the Denver Center’s radiantly successful Oklahoma!; she’s not the least bit dignified here as she identifies herself with full-throated malice as an “Evil Woman.” Aaron Vega, who plays Danny, owner of the rundown building that Sonny and Clio want to convert into Xanadu, is a seriously talented comic with a seriously impressive baritone. Put these performers to a silly but stylish script, and what ensues is one of the most amusing evenings you can ever hope to enjoy: satirical, clever-stupid, light as air, pointless and at the same time pure comic gold. Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Cabaret through April 28 at the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Read the full review of Xanadu.