Seven months after his father suffered a stroke, Arthur Kopit tried to understand his dad's altered state by penning a series of surreal episodes that revolve around a former aviatrix's post-stroke experiences. Propelled by Terry Dodd's masterful direction, Martha Greenberg's superb portrayal proved a moving account of one woman's struggle to find her place in a strange, yet achingly familiar, world. Whether she was trying to comprehend the non sequiturs barked out by hospital aides or piecing out her own imperfections during the gratifying final scene, Greenberg maintained an iron grip on the ancient navigator's bedeviled wonderment. Backed by Charles Dean Packard's eerie lighting design and El Armstrong's unobtrusive sound effects, Greenberg's performance allowed Kopit's play to soar.

Paul Page's seemingly native ability to shoot down highfalutin ideas with a gliding, three-note "Yah" contributed to his ingratiating portrait of an armchair-philosophizing fisherman in the Aurora Fox Theatre Company's production of The Ice-Fishing Play. He conferred an easy complexity on native Minnesotan Kevin Kling's look at the intimate lives of sportsmen, at the same time touching upon every man's fear that emotional closeness invariably results in a loss of independence. Page also jerked a few tears when he related a tale that was as profound as a haunting boreal glow radiating beneath an evening squall. And regarding his attempts to remain authentic in speech and behavior, a true Minnesotan would probably say, "Oh, you betcha!"

Paul Page's seemingly native ability to shoot down highfalutin ideas with a gliding, three-note "Yah" contributed to his ingratiating portrait of an armchair-philosophizing fisherman in the Aurora Fox Theatre Company's production of The Ice-Fishing Play. He conferred an easy complexity on native Minnesotan Kevin Kling's look at the intimate lives of sportsmen, at the same time touching upon every man's fear that emotional closeness invariably results in a loss of independence. Page also jerked a few tears when he related a tale that was as profound as a haunting boreal glow radiating beneath an evening squall. And regarding his attempts to remain authentic in speech and behavior, a true Minnesotan would probably say, "Oh, you betcha!"

While director Ed Baierlein's Noh-theater-style approach initially took some getting used to, Germinal Stage Denver's production of Suddenly Last Summer proved that Tennessee Williams's powers of suggestion are surprisingly compatible with ancient Japanese drama. In keeping with Noh tradition, GSD's entire production was performed on a raised, square platform made of simulated polished cypress wood. Despite the fact that mastering the art of Noh performance requires years of training and a lifetime of experience, Baierlein elicited mesmerizing performances from the cohesive ensemble. Clad in costumer Sallie Diamond's tasteful creations, the actors properly conjured feeling rather than describing it to death, inspiring the staunchest Williams purist to think about vocalizing a Southern-style "Om."

While director Ed Baierlein's Noh-theater-style approach initially took some getting used to, Germinal Stage Denver's production of Suddenly Last Summer proved that Tennessee Williams's powers of suggestion are surprisingly compatible with ancient Japanese drama. In keeping with Noh tradition, GSD's entire production was performed on a raised, square platform made of simulated polished cypress wood. Despite the fact that mastering the art of Noh performance requires years of training and a lifetime of experience, Baierlein elicited mesmerizing performances from the cohesive ensemble. Clad in costumer Sallie Diamond's tasteful creations, the actors properly conjured feeling rather than describing it to death, inspiring the staunchest Williams purist to think about vocalizing a Southern-style "Om."

The Mayan, a repeat winner in the traditional-theater category, remains hard to beat: Built in 1930 and saved from the wrecking ball in 1986, Landmark's charming three-screen art house is a vision of architectural whimsy that stands out in a cookie-cutter world. Between the carved stucco warriors gazing down on you from the rafters and the downtown hipsters in the orchestra seats, the place is a trip. Don't forget the cult-oriented midnight shows on Friday and Saturday nights -- everything from Hong Kong chop-socky to John Waters camp to Japanese anime.

The Mayan, a repeat winner in the traditional-theater category, remains hard to beat: Built in 1930 and saved from the wrecking ball in 1986, Landmark's charming three-screen art house is a vision of architectural whimsy that stands out in a cookie-cutter world. Between the carved stucco warriors gazing down on you from the rafters and the downtown hipsters in the orchestra seats, the place is a trip. Don't forget the cult-oriented midnight shows on Friday and Saturday nights -- everything from Hong Kong chop-socky to John Waters camp to Japanese anime.

Smarmy reductionists have accused playwright Martin McDonagh of lacking heart, exploiting cheap theatrics and failing to justify his characters' behavior. However, like the works of such master language architects as Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter and even Irish expatriate Samuel Beckett, McDonagh's creations attain full flower only when nurtured by a seasoned director's artful touch. As expertly deciphered by the Denver Center Theatre Company's first-rate cast, McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane evolved into a vibrant portrait of contemporary Irish mores. By looking beyond obvious horizons, director Anthony Powell and company kindled feeling without lapsing into sentiment, startled the intellect without cudgeling the mind -- and helped to explain why the upstart McDonagh has reawakened dramatic imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Smarmy reductionists have accused playwright Martin McDonagh of lacking heart, exploiting cheap theatrics and failing to justify his characters' behavior. However, like the works of such master language architects as Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter and even Irish expatriate Samuel Beckett, McDonagh's creations attain full flower only when nurtured by a seasoned director's artful touch. As expertly deciphered by the Denver Center Theatre Company's first-rate cast, McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane evolved into a vibrant portrait of contemporary Irish mores. By looking beyond obvious horizons, director Anthony Powell and company kindled feeling without lapsing into sentiment, startled the intellect without cudgeling the mind -- and helped to explain why the upstart McDonagh has reawakened dramatic imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Best (theatrically speaking) political farce

Nixon's Nixon

While Russell Lees's imagined conversation between Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, might have seemed like ancient history to the younger set, the Aurora Fox's production resonated with older viewers who, having been subjected to Tricky Dick's endless television appearances, learned to think of his sweaty upper lip as the equivalent of Pinocchio's growing nose. Duane Black's Nixon and Gregory Price's Kissinger riotously pointed up the dynamic between pygmy-warrior king and Machiavellian power-grubber while evoking decades-old feelings about being robbed of our trust in government by the man who kept insisting, "I am not a crook!" Luckily for Fox audience members, the only thing that got stolen during this enjoyable production was the halftime bathroom break -- a situation that prompted a few patrons to pop out of the theater whenever they got the urge. Evidently, director Bev Newcomb-Madden's well-staged regional premiere was vivid enough that some folks thought they were watching the country unravel once more on television.

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