What a pleasure to see Kathleen Brady in a role worthy of her abundant talents. In the semi-autobiographical Well, playwright Lisa Kron explores her own mother's long-term debilitating, unclassifiable illness or persistent hypochondria (take your pick). As the actress representing Lisa tells her story, the mother herself appears in all her disheveled warmth, passion and humor to kvetch, talk to the audience, contradict her daughter and tell her side of the story. It's a rich, vital role, and Brady was simply irresistible in it. Poor Lisa didn't stand a chance.

Curious Theatre Company

Real-life conspiracy theorists tend to be boring people with bad breath who trap you in corners to expound endlessly on the actual author of Shakespeare's plays and how the CIA staged 9/11. But Yankee Tavern's Ray is way funnier and more ironic. He talks to ghosts, hates Starbucks and the facial-tissue industry, and carries a moon rock in his pocket — a rock from the real, invisible moon landing, as opposed to the highly publicized 1969 event. Marcus Waterman is always a pleasure to watch on a stage, but he tends to play dignified, somewhat authoritative roles. Given the juicy part of Ray, he got to mutter and shamble, poke and joke, and plain dominate the action whenever he was on stage.

Dinner theaters aren't called on to worship at the altar of art, but rather to satisfy down-home audiences looking for anxiety-free entertainment: families, young couples, church groups, business groups, people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. But Boulder's Dinner Theatre nimbly accomplishes the two-step between commercialism and creativity, mounting summer productions filled with adorable kids; old chestnuts that reliably fill the house; smaller, quirkier shows; and the occasional sexy sizzler. This year, the roster was Annie, Singin' in the Rain, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Chicago, and BDT produced them all with style. Every show featured fine singing, energetic and sometimes inspired acting, well-conceived sets and costumes, the music of Neil Dunfee's talented small orchestra, and the cast's infectious exuberance. There's a lot to be said for pure enjoyment — and this BDT season said it all.

The Denver Botanic Gardens boasts one of the most beautiful — and intimate — open-air concert halls in the city, where it hosts its annual summer music series under the stars. Tickets can be pricey and hard to come by, but they're well worth the effort. And who better to choose the performers for such an exclusive venue than Swallow Hill, Denver's own acoustic-music stronghold, where music and beauty have always walked hand in hand? As Swallow Hill seeks to broaden its constituency by offering more diverse concert performers and the DBG continues to grow, the two organizations should make beautiful music together.

Like the previous compilations in this series produced by Radio 1190, Local Shakedown Vol. 3 is both a labor of love and a love letter to the underground scene. Everything in this collection — from Magic Cyclops's faux-commercial introduction to the debut of a true hip-hop act with Time's "Cockroach Goddess" to previously unreleased tracks by Cowboy Curse and Bad Luck City — was organized by Katherine Peterson, who recently stepped down as host of Local Shakedown. She'll be missed.

Travis Egedy of Pictureplane writes blogs like he makes music: weird and like he's floating in outer space and ridiculously optimistic. It's good for contextualizing his music, sure, but it was also here that we first heard about Die Antwoord and Lil B's "I'm God." Plain Pictures is one-stop shopping for obscure mixtapes, confessions of a crush on Kristin Stewart, and generally remembering that pop culture is supposed to make you feel good.

Best Corpse Paint on a Band That Doesn't Play Black Metal

The Widow's Bane

Painting your face to look like the ghoulish visage of a pasty, rotting cadaver has long been the province of death-obsessed, Scandinavian black-metal bands. The practice, though, dates back to '80s punk legends the Misfits — which is probably where Boulder's the Widow's Bane got the idea. But here's the funny thing: While clearly drawing inspiration from the bleaker side of the human experience, the Widow's Bane plays a folk-based music full of minor-key waltzes and cobwebbed shanties. And, really, what's creepier: a grim reaper slinging an electric guitar, or one squeezing an accordion?

Bluebird Theater

Avant-garde metal band Sunn O))) finally came to Denver and played a packed house at the Bluebird. Before the show, the stage crew filled the theater with a nearly impenetrable layer of fog; those lucky enough to make it to the foot of the stage could see the mighty Attila Csihar of Mayhem come on stage dressed alternately as a wizard and as a tree spirit while the band, shrouded in robes like Lovecraftian sorcerers, laid down crushing, cavernously dark riffs from beyond the walls of sleep. But everyone could hear Csihar's utterly unearthly, soul-shaking vocalizations. And long after the music ended, the fog continued to roll down the street.

Meadowlark

Mike Marchant is a ridiculous talent as a songwriter, guitarist and general gangly badass. Fortunately for the rest of us, he's willing to share, both as a member of umpteen Denver bands, including Houses and Widowers, and as the host of a songwriting workshop at the Meadowlark. Every other Monday, Marchant leads an informal conversation about the making of music. Ideas are sussed, music is played, and higher levels of understanding are reached. We're not sure what his plans are for the future — the dude's busy — but it's a novel concept and a humble donation of time from one of the city's best artists, regardless.

Casselman's Bar & Venue

In the year since Adam and Andrew Ranes opened Casselman's Bar & Venue, it's gone from a 9,000-square-foot space with a lot of potential to an outstanding, multi-use venue that's equally inviting whether it's being used for live music or corporate events. While the back room, which was a distribution warehouse for the May Company in the '40s and '50s, used to sound a bit boomy, a new sound system has done wonders for the place. So has the talent-buying team of Caddy Cadwell and Samantha Hanson, who are gradually ramping up the caliber of national acts coming to Casselman's.

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