In A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, set during the Depression years, Tennessee Williams was exploring less poetic lives than in his earlier work. He used caricature, slapstick, even diarrhea jokes, and maintained a fine balance between humor and his customary melancholy. He also gave us moments of grace in which the characters overcame their essential separateness to minister to one another. Williams's later work has often been dismissed as a thin echo of his powerful early plays, but it's clear from this lovely piece that he continued to develop as an artist. Director Laird Williamson and an excellent cast delivered a fine production of Williams's script; Kathleen M. Brady, whose warmth and humor were on full display, was especially riveting as the loud, sweaty and excessive Bodey. The Denver Center Theatre Company deserves kudos for unearthing the play.

Last year, Bas Bleu, which has been presenting theater in Fort Collins for over a decade, moved from its exquisite small theater building to a roomier location. For the first event in the new space, the group staged a two-evening production of Tony Kushner's brilliant seven-hour epic, Angels in America, in collaboration with OpenStage, another Fort Collins institution. The presentation benefited greatly from the combination of resources. Angels boasted some of the best talent around, including OpenStage founders Denise Burson Freestone and Bruce K. Freestone in pivotal roles, and directors Laura Jones and Terry Dodd. This was an understated but emotionally committed production that did full justice to Kushner's mind-bending script.

Jeremy Cole assembled an excellent group of actors, each of whom played several roles, to bring Ovid's fables into the twentieth century in Metamorphoses. He balanced the tone of the production comfortably between comedy and tragedy, mythic resonance and contemporary humor. The set -- a huge, water-filled granite pool that could be anything from a Hollywood swimming pool to the Greeks' dangerous, wine-dark sea -- was a miracle of design and engineering, put together by Michael Duran, Ben Wofford and producer John Ashton. Cole's Metamorphoses seductively combined lighthearted pleasure with a powerful theme.

Wendy Ishii is the artistic director and co-founder of Bas Bleu, a major theatrical force in Fort Collins. She has also gained attention for her work on the plays of Samuel Beckett with faculty from Colorado State University. Ishi's energy and vision keep Bas Bleu going: Her efforts to secure funding facilitated the company's recent move to a larger home. And in performance after performance, she has also proved herself an extraordinary actress. As an all-powerful but eccentric angel in this year's Angels in America, she ripped off the roof. Which, come to think of it, seems only fitting.

Where would Denver theater be without Ed Baierlein? He and his talented wife, Sallie Diamond, started Germinal Stage thirty years ago, back when there was very little theater of any kind in town. He has produced a roster of challenging, hilarious and thoughtful plays every year since -- and in the process, has discovered many of the city's best actors. Baierlein acts (brilliantly), directs, runs the box office and handles publicity, all with finesse. He's also one of the most literate theater people around, staging work that challenges the imagination while never pandering to the crowd.

Mare Trevathan brings a combination of subtlety, conviction and luminosity to every role she undertakes. In Harold Pinter's Old Times for Bas Bleu, she was the mysterious Kate, whose husband and onetime best friend spent the evening vying for her attention. She was also somewhat muted as the wife of an adulterous husband in Curious Theatre Company's The Long Christmas Ride Home. More marital problems followed in Curious's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, when Trevathan's character, Stevie, learned that her husband had fallen in love with a goat. Trevathan juggled these complexities with the combination of passion and cool intelligence she brings to all her roles.

Jamie Horton, one of the earliest members of the Denver Center Theatre Company, is a local treasure. He proved it again this year with his performance as Dalton Trumbo in Curious's Trumbo: Red, White and Blacklisted, making the man eccentric, outspoken, wise and wily in that peculiarly evocative American way. Horton also shone in The Misanthrope at the Denver Center. And he was almost the only actor on stage with sufficient power and presence to project a distinct personality through the speech-muffling masks of the DCTC's Oedipus Rex.

Nagle Jackson is known as a classical kind of guy -- an intelligent translator and a witty and incisive playwright. So it wasn't a surprise when he staged a lucid production of Molire's The Misanthrope for the Denver Center Theater Company. But who expected him to follow with a wildly controversial contemporary drama about a guy shtupping a goat? Jackson pulled off The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? for Curious Theatre Company with both energy and style.

Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page
Okay, so we weren't knocked out by The Tricky Part, and we found some fault with The Long Christmas Ride Home and Yellowman. But Inventing Van Gogh and The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia? represented theater at its best. And even though some productions are more winning than others, there's a stamp of integrity on every single Curious production. Artistic director Chip Walton doesn't decide on repertoire by convening focus groups or holding his finger to the wind; he's interested in artistic and intellectual exploration. Curious brings in exciting plays that would never be seen here otherwise, and brings them to life with strong performances and production values. How lucky for the rest of us.

Best Chance for Change in the Theater Scene

Kent Thompson

The winds of change are blowing through the Denver Center Theatre Company. New artistic director Kent Thompson has announced that the upcoming season will include two more plays than usual and feature female, black and Latino voices. Thompson seems intent on restoring the company's role in nurturing original plays, and to that end is networking with important local directors. Finally, by working to attract new audiences to Denver Center productions, he plans to make the city a center for theater nationwide. We wish him every success.

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