Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in First Date: A Musical Comedy.
Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in First Date: A Musical Comedy.
Emily Lozo

Reviewed: First Date (Closing), Six More Shows to See Now!

This is your last chance to make a date with First Date: A Musical Comedy, which closes this weekend at the Garner Galleria. Keep reading for a capsule review of that show, as well as six more around town.

Emma Messenger and Sam Gregory in All My Sons.
Emma Messenger and Sam Gregory in All My Sons.
Matt Gale Photography

All My Sons. The actors in the Arvada Center’s All My Sons give fine performances, and their passion brings vivid life to Arthur Miller’s play about war, corporate profiteering and the effect of one man’s moral lapse on his family and community. Miller’s exploration of the darker side of the American dream is particularly telling because the play premiered two years after the end of World War II, in 1947. Joe Keller is an affable, small-town everyman, who’s worked hard for his family’s security. But as head of a factory during the war, he knowingly okayed a shipment of cracked cylinder heads for P-40 planes, causing the death of 21 pilots. Further, he let his partner, Steve Deever, take the blame, and as the play opens, Deever is serving a prison sentence.
All My Sons asks searching questions about what human beings owe each other and what constitutes an ethical life. Joe is at the heart of the corruption, but no one in his world is innocent, from the neighbors who understood what had happened at the factory but decided to put aside their concerns and maintain peace to Joe’s wife, Kate, frantic to believe Larry is still alive. In a single day, events hurtle toward revelation and, with an authorial nod to Greek tragedy, retribution: To cleanse his small kingdom and allow his family a measure of peace, Joe must fall. In the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre through May 3, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of All My Sons.

Reviewed: First Date (Closing), Six More Shows to See Now! (10)
Glenn Ross Photography

Always...Patsy Cline. After Louise Seger heard Patsy Cline singing “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the Arthur Godfrey Show in 1957, she became a devoted and committed fan, eventually pestering her local radio station in Houston to play Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” every morning. Seger met Cline when she performed at the Esquire Ballroom, and the two became fast friends. The true-life relationship between these two women provides the framework for this musical, and if the script, based on letters and an interview with Seger, doesn’t do it much justice, that doesn’t really matter, because the evening is all about music. The songs — ranging from country to pop, with a touch of Cole Porter (“True Love”) — are well chosen, and the wonderful Norrell Moore plays Patsy Cline. Presented by BDT Stage through May 20, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the full review of Always...Patsy Cline.

Verl Hite and Deborah Persoff in The Audience.
Verl Hite and Deborah Persoff in The Audience.
RDG Photography

The Audience. The British monarchy is a strange hybrid beast, and it clearly fascinates playwright Peter Morgan, who wrote the script for the 2006 movie The Queen as well as the Netflix series The Crown. In The Audience, currently receiving a regional premiere at Vintage Theatre, Queen Elizabeth, now 92 years old, is a figurehead. Or, as she calls herself in this witty and entertaining play, “a postage stamp with a pulse.” Except that there’s a wordless force in the woman’s ordinariness, propriety and devotion to duty, as well as the extraordinary length of her reign. The prime minister, who actually does most of the work of running the country, comes to the palace weekly for an audience with her majesty. No one knows what transpires during these sessions, but Morgan imagines everything from cozy teas to occasional moments of queenly empathy to political discussions. Deborah Persoff has all the humor, presence and majesty needed to carry both the role and the evening, showing Elizabeth changing back and forth in age from young to middle-aged to very old. Presented by Vintage Theatre through May 13, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora, 303-856-7830, vintagetheatre.com. Read the full review of The Audience.

Jessica Robblee and Abner Genece in The Electric Baby.
Jessica Robblee and Abner Genece in The Electric Baby.
Matt Gale Photography

The Electric Baby. This regional premiere at the Arvada Center is filled with myth, fantasy and story. Jessica Robblee is wonderful as Natalia, a Romanian mother keeping watch beside her dying child — who’s represented by a small form attached to glowing white tube, a baby already half in another world. She’s joined by a fascinating group of characters, brought together the uncontainable rage and grief of another mother, Helen, over the loss of her own child: Ambimbola, the cab driver who crashed in an attempt to avoid Helen as she either fell or deliberately stepped into the road; and passengers Rozie, a prostitute, and Dan, expressing their longtime friendship through drunken cursing and mutual abuse....until Dan is killed in the accident. Author Stefanie Zadravec has created lively and absorbing scenes, and the supernatural is always present, along with the elemental grief of mothers who have lost their children. But in the end, imagery takes the place of structure, depth and resolution. Presented through May 4 at the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of The Electric Baby.

Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in First Date: A Musical Comedy.
Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in First Date: A Musical Comedy.
Emily Lozo

First Date: A Musical Comedy. Casey and Aaron have been set up on a crucial first date at a restaurant, even though they seem mismatched: He’s a serious guy with a steady job in finance who hates blind dates; she’s what he eventually terms — though having uttered the term, he hastily retreats from it — a “blind-date slut.” He wears a suit; she’s in ripped leggings and has some vaguely defined job at a gallery. Like all human beings, both are dogged by their pasts and the people in them — friends, previous lovers, parents — and all of these characters appear during the evening to berate, confuse or encourage the couple. For Casey, it’s sister Lauren who’s most persistent; Lauren has children and a nice stable marriage — a status both sisters see as ultimately desirable — and she wants the same for Casey. But Lauren’s not nearly as persistent as Allison, the bossy, manipulative woman Aaron almost married. Casey has a gay best friend who provides a handful of bail-out calls over the evening — though she soon decides she doesn’t want to be bailed out. She’s also distracted by the memory of a couple of bad boys she was attracted to, the kind of guys good girls always want to save. The topics touched on in the script aren’t very original — commitment phobia, the ticking biological clock, female self-consciousness about eating on a first date (will he think less of her if she tears into a burger?), wild girl versus repressed businessman. Does Aaron actually care about corporate finance? Is Casey really into anything arty, aside from her cunningly slit tights? If they felt more like real people, we’d care more about whether they connect or not. Still, the show works because of the talent on stage, and should be a perfect date for anyone wanting to slip off their shoes under the table, sip a cocktail, and recover from a taxing day at work. Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through April 22 at the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Read the review of First Date: A Musical Comedy.

Brenton Schindele and Anastasia Davidson in Going to a Place Where You Already Are.
Brenton Schindele and Anastasia Davidson in Going to a Place Where You Already Are.
Michael Ensminger

Going to a Place Where You Already Are. I was delighted and impressed when I heard that the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company had snagged a play by This Is Us writer-producer Bekah Brunstetter for a regional premiere. Unfortunately, it seems as if Brunstetter has just taken the soggy, sentimental bits of the television drama and macerated them in sugar syrup for the play. The action begins promisingly with an older couple, Joe and Roberta, seated in church, whispering and joking like teenagers as the pastor delivers an unctuous eulogy for a woman Joe knows only from work and his wife not at all. Joe is a didactic atheist, but Roberta finds herself unexpectedly moved by a hymn she used to sing as a child. Where is the dead woman going, she wonders. The cemetery, responds Joe coolly. This scene, searching, sharp and funny, turns out to be the best part of the evening. Not long afterward, Roberta has an out-of-body experience in which she’s introduced to the afterlife by an inexplicably affectionate angel. She also discovers that a painful backache she’d attributed to pulling up dandelions is actually a widely metastasized cancer. Then there’s a younger couple who, we eventually realize, are Ellie, Joe’s granddaughter, and Jonas, a wheelchair-bound man with whom Ellie’s just spent the night. Neither couple feels remotely real. And besides, it’s impossible to believe that Roberta is dying: Brunstetter gives her none of the depth, insight, terror and vulnerability you’d expect from any thoughtful human facing mortality. The play’s vision of an afterlife is shallow and childish, too. Surely, no matter how strongly you believe, the terror of death can’t be assuaged by ice cream and chocolate sauce. Presented by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Collective through May 6, Dairy Arts Center, 303-444-7328, betc.org. Read the review of Going to a Place Where You Already Are.

Regina Fernandez and Geoffrey Kent in Sense and Sensibility.
Regina Fernandez and Geoffrey Kent in Sense and Sensibility.
Matt Gale Photography

Sense and Sensibility. Kate Hamill’s play Sense and Sensibility isn’t the Jane Austen you’re used to, those gracefully written novels filled with a sly, quiet humor and canny observations about late-eighteenth-century society. Yet in many ways this staged version is faithful to its source. It follows the plot closely, simplifying only enough to fit the narrative into a two-hour time frame. The visual elements are stylish and beautifully balanced, but in other ways the production is an all-out farce, with crazily over-the-top acting and characters morphing periodically into cats, dogs, high-stepping horses, even chickens. The pretty period furniture is almost a character in itself, as it skids and skitters about or is wheeled from place to place. At the story’s center are the two Dashwood sisters: young, romantic and emotional Marianne, who represents sensibility, and dignified Elinor, embodying sense. Marianne is drawn to dashing Willoughby, who turns out to be a cad, and uninterested in the devoted Colonel Brandon — a perfect gentleman but one she considers ancient at 35. Elinor loves Edward Ferrars, who’s tethered to a long-ago commitment; she suffers in silence. Two themes predominate. One is the prevalence of gossip in this world. No matter what’s happening between the couples, someone seems to be watching, tittering, passing on the news. The second theme concerns money. In Austen’s time, love was shaped, driven or destroyed by money — its lack or possession. A man with no money had no hope of finding a wife; there were very few ways for an impecunious women to keep body and soul together. All the hilarity would be tiresome without real feeling to ground it, but fortunately, Geoffrey Kent’s Colonel Brandon is a rock of subdued kindness throughout. And when Edward finally tells Elinor he loves her, Jessica Robblee utters a cry — a sort of cross between a sob and a whomp — that tells us everything about the storm of emotion she’s been concealing the entire time. Presented by the Arvada Center Black Box Repertory Theatre through May 6, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org. Read the full review of Sense and Sensibility.

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