Best Set -- Small Budget 2003 | Kenn PennAlchemy of Desire/ Dead Man's Blues | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Kenn Penn created a gutsy, complex setting for Alchemy of Desire -- one of those archetypal, steamy, swampy bayous, with vines reaching everywhere. Even the weathered wooden steps and platforms reached out into and divided the audience.

From the pieces of furniture worn by the actors in one number to the hanging rubber pullets and clock headdress of another, the costumes for When Pigs Fly were wildly, exuberantly over the top, a pure visual expression of the evening's liberating energy.

When Pigs Fly was a collection of songs, puns, bits and skits performed by a collection of men in drag and directed by the estimable Nicholas Sugar. It was not only bring-down-the-house funny, but also a brave and poignant affirmation of the gay lifestyle and the joys of being out.
For the famed title number in the Boulder Dinner Theatre production of Singin' in the Rain, director Ross Haley provided a kind of monster play pool for actor Brian Norber to stomp, sing and dance in. Front-row audience members were given slickers, and they and Norber enjoyed a mutual good time as the water soared and sprayed.
Though the play itself was hard to embrace at times, a combination of Jacobean revenge tragedy and nineteenth-century melodrama that almost worked, Pierre's production values were impeccable. Vicki Smith's set design was elegant and expressive, and Pierre was worth attending just to watch the play of Don Darnutzer's gorgeous lighting against the scrim. Throw in Kevin Copenhaver and Andrew V. Yelusich's dazzling costumes, and the evening was a technical wonderment.

Broken Words is a collage of poetry and prose put together and performed by actors Anthony Zerbe and Roscoe Lee Browne. The result is a magnificent evening that includes the words of Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott and W. H. Auden, among others. Both actors are relaxed and consummate performers, and they allowed the language to take center stage. For a few short hours, the audience could forget the murky times we live in and believe in the transcendence of the human spirit.

Though it was warm and celebratory, this Christmas Carol also gave Dickens's melancholy depiction of poverty in Victorian England its due. The set was ingenious, the costumes sparkled, the child actors were appealing, and Randy Moore gave Scrooge a wistful edge. Take a child this year.

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.

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