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First came Patty Dobrowolski and Nancy Cranbourne in Mrs. Schwartz and Dober, a series of overlapping improvised monologues about the actresses' lives, including Cranbourne's bitter-comic re-enactment of her mother's increasing dementia and her own incomprehension. Then there was the truly mind-boggling Ed: The World Made Dress, written and performed by Michelle Spenser Ellsworth. The dress is a movable, functional, nonfunctional piece of sculpture worn by Spencer -- even though it must weigh a ton. It contains everything that matters to her, she says, including a paintball gun and a spice rack, and it can be transformed into a confessional booth, a movie screen, a uterus -- whatever Ellsworth can conceptualize and the audience imagine. This theater piece is significant, quirky, open to endless interpretation, and purely brilliant.

Best Place to Get Your Five-Minute Freak On

Freak Train

Freak Train is a wild ride through good, bad and ugly forms of personal expression. Rappers, poets, aspiring bards, monologists, puppeteers, karaoke kings and every other permutation of performer turn up to meet, greet and, in some cases, confound the Bug Theatre crowd, which is usually composed of sympathetic fellow stagehounds. It isn't high art - expect nudity, profanity, purposeful obscenity - and it can be a little sloppy; with only five minutes to showcase one's stuff, there's not a lot of time for polish. But for its energy, its openness and its willingness to turn the boards over to the amateur as well as the pro (at least on the last Monday of every month), we hope the Train keeps rollin'.

A pregnant woman enters the house of a kindly trucker, and instantly time stops. The couple embarks on a night that's outside time and outside what we know as reality. Eventually, there is only the image of Celestina and Anibal holding each other in a glowing otherworldly bubble as rain and sirens pelt their insulated world. Director Chip Walton and actors Robert Ham and Bethany LaVoo beautifully realized Jose Rivera's script, deftly addressing the ideas of time and place. The technical team of set designer Daniel Guyette, tech director Braden Stroup and lighting designer William Temple Davis also created a spare and sensitive setting to buoy some of the more ethereal effects, such as a bed floating in the clouds. Matthew Morgan's choice of haunting classical guitar music completed the Cloud Tectonics experience.

Best Quietly Intelligent Evening of Theater

Talking Heads

Talking Heads was an exquisite production of two monologues by the wryly enigmatic Englishman Alan Bennett. The acting, by Chris Tabb and Ann Rickhoff, was pitch perfect, as was Richard Pegg's direction. Everything about the production felt right, from the brown leaves drifting into a pile beneath a bus-stop bench to the yellow-gray late-afternoon light that shone through a lonely woman's window. Everyman Theatre was forced to close this year. It will be much missed.

Best -- and Most Missed -- Theatrical Inspiration

Ernestine Georgianna

The Boulder Rep is still vivid in the minds of most Boulder theater aficionados. Founded by Frank and Ernestine Georgianna in 1974, the company mounted challenging, exquisitely staged contemporary plays and acted in a variety of around-town venues through the year 2000. Frank was a visionary theatrical force through all those years, both as actor and director, but it was Ernestine, executive producer, costume designer, and keenly incisive watcher and critic who kept things humming behind the scenes. Lovingly tended by Frank over the past two years, Ernestine died November 27 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

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