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Young Frankenstein, Detroit and Motherhood Out Loud on Local Stages

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<em>Young Frankenstein</em> is a monster smash at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, so grab your tickets fast. This is also the last weekend to see <em>Motherhood Out Loud</em> at the Avenue, and <em>Detroit</em> is continuing to draw crowds to Curious Theater Company. Keep reading for capsule reviews and more info on these three productions.

Detroit. Detroit is intelligent, absorbing, lively, surprising and often evocative. It keeps you on your toes and makes for a good evening of theater. But beyond the entertaining portraits it presents of a pair of neighboring couples – four eccentric, lost people, all floundering in different ways – there isn’t a whole lot of there there. Class issues get evoked, as the title suggests, but they feel extraneous to the central energy, as does all the dialogue about the meaning of community, suburbia and the state of the country. That energy focuses on the characters’ muddled and dream-filled (literally, as several dreams are described) but not very convincing inner lives. Mary and Ben have been living smack in the middle of the middle class: He’s a bank loan officer and she's a paralegal. But Ben has been laid off, and though they still live in their neat suburban home, they can feel the foundations of their life together crumbling. They are entertaining their new neighbors, Sharon and Kenny, recovering addicts who met in a rehab program and are flat broke; their recovery proves as short-lived as you’d expect. Mary’s an addict, too, but her addiction is socially acceptable: She’s an alcoholic. And while Sharon and Kenny improvise their way through life, Mary tries desperately for control. Soon Sharon and Kenny are reciprocating their new friends’ hospitality – except that instead of steaks, Kenny is cooking hamburgers with balls of cheese inside. Much of the meaning in Detroit is communicated through imagery and symbolism, but these devices work more as poetry than as drama. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through June 19, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the full review here.     

Motherhood Out Loud. This collection of short plays on motherhood by several well-known playwrights was a big hit last time at the Avenue Theater, and now it's back. You meet bored mothers, elderly mothers, stepmothers, adoring mothers, a mother accompanying her tween-age autistic son on his first date, another trying to protect a seven-year-old son who likes wearing sparkly princess dresses, a mother who happens to be a gay male. While there are no out-and-out evil mothers here — these people do exist — and most of the pieces are moving rather than acerbic, the evening isn't Hallmark Card sentimental. It's witty, well-balanced and well put-together, and the cast of five women and one man performs the show with integrity and heart. Nor is it for women only — the men in the audience laugh just as hard. Presented at the Avenue Theater through May 31, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, avenuetheater.com.
Young Frankenstein. Victor von Frankenstein has just died, and the villagers of Transylvania Heights are rejoicing in the removal of his ghoulish presence from their midst. But there’s a grandson, a Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who teaches at the renowned Johns Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine in New York. He’s so ashamed of his family legacy that he insists that his name be pronounced “Fronkensteen,” to distinguish himself from his grandfather. Informed of Victor’s death, however, he bids farewell to his fiancée, Elizabeth — who, just ask her, is an “adorable madcap,” but also intensely touch-averse — and goes to Transylvania to check things out. Here he runs into the hunchback Igor, beautiful villager Inga, and Frau Blücher, his granddad’s onetime squeeze and a woman so sinister that the mere sound of her name sets horses whinnying. When he’s persuaded to resume the work of reanimating the dead, the results are predictably monstrous. This production of Young Frankenstein is a crazy, laugh-filled good time. The star wattage on stage is amazing, the songs are tuneful, the direction — by Nick Sugar — is skilled, confident, precise and free-flowing. The set, costumes and special effects are ingenious, and any production that’s graced by the participation of musical director Donna Kolpan Debreceni and her players is bound to roll along on a buoyant, energizing current of sound. The top ticket price for the 2007 New York production (which the New York Times panned as, among other things, deafeningly loud) was $450, which strikes me as obscene on more levels than I can list here. The top ticket price for this high-spirited, professional quality show — where the sound is at exactly the right volume — is in the low forties. So what are you waiting for? Tickets are going fast. Presented by the Town Hall Arts Center through June 14, 2450 West Main Street, Littleton, 303-794-2787, townhallartscenter.com. Read the full review here.

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