In Mouse in a Jar, Ma is the ultimate female victim: a Polish immigrant married to a faceless man who regularly abuses her and stands symbolically for the brute power of dictatorship and oppression everywhere. Ma cooks. She awaits the nightly return of her oppressor. She does little to protect her two daughters, and when one of them attempts to protect her, the attempt itself is brutal. Yet Ma also possesses a twisted, burned-in-the-flame toughness and humor. Trina Magness gave a memorable, haunted performance as Ma in LIDA's production of Mouse in a Jar.

Despite the faux spunkiness with which the Disney Corporation endows its heroines, every Belle we've ever seen has been utterly insipid — and Jenna Bainbridge had precisely the sweet soprano and delicate, pretty features required for Beauty and the Beast's Belle. But in this Phamaly production, she also packed a grit and determination that made her easily a match for Leonard Barrett's powerful beast.

Some actors win audience attention effortlessly; most have to work for it. Allison Pistorius is in the former group. When she comes on stage, you want to watch her. When she leaves, you feel a moment's regret. This quality stood her in good stead in the role of the jilted Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a part that's too often cartoony or forgettable. In this Denver Center Theatre Company production, Pistorius got in a bunch of lively slapstick: furious struggles with her perceived rival, Hermia, enraged encounters with the two men who alternately pursued and rejected her, a memorable soaking. But despite all this, she made the character warmly human.

It's hugely to the credit of authors Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus that they managed to distill Dostoyevsky's magnum opus into a ninety-minute play without sacrificing depth and significance — and it also speaks volumes about the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's artistic ambition and integrity that it chose to stage this version of Crime and Punishment. The production was thoughtful and solid, with a stellar turn by Chris Kendall as the cagey police investigator, Porfiry, who wrings a murder confession out of Raskolnikov through a combination of deliberate vagueness, faux innocence and bloodhound-like tenacity.

One step into the Brass Tree house and what sets this makeshift venue apart is immediately apparent: There are cameras everywhere. The free shows at the house venue are all recorded and quickly turned around as short, film-style pieces of music history. Only three episodes into its series, Brass Tree has already captured legendary performances by Hot White, Thee Goochi Boiz and SAUNA. Just goes to show what dudes with cool day jobs can do when they combine those skills with a passion for music.

Best Addition to the Local Hip-Hop Scene

Sole

When Sole, aka Tim Holland, split from Anticon and moved to Denver, the city got an unusual treat — not just a stellar addition to the hip-hop scene, but a live performer whose progressive attitude toward the music industry has subsequently given us plentiful releases of both the free and for-purchase varieties. His attachment to multimedia projects, public-speaking events and social networking has made Sole a clear, well-spoken voice in the community.

Tjutjuna's type of psychedelic space rock is a richly realized alloy of edgy darkness and playful exuberance swirling around a bright center of rippling melodies. But rather than go in for one of those retro cover designs that seem to grace the albums of most neo-psychedelic bands lately, the members of Tjutjuna approached their friend Milton Melvin Croissant III, one of the founders of Rhinoceropolis, to create a piece of art that perfectly suited the music within. Appropriately, it features a smiling, rainbow-bespectacled xenomorph that matches the band's name.

Denver's hip-hop roots run deep. And if there's one b-boy who's doing his part to keep that culture alive, it's Delfino Rodriguez. Better known in hip-hop circles as Fienz, the graf writer, gifted dancer, Bronx Boys member and Lords of Finesse co-founder is teaching a whole new generation the ways of hip-hop and reaching a whole new audience with the Mighty 4 Denver b-boy summits he's been pouring his heart, soul and money into for the past three years. The free, annual community event not only creates mainstream exposure for the thriving members of the underground, but it gives cats a chance to meet and chop it up with such b-boy legends as Tony, Trac 2, Mr. Freeze, Paulskee, Yknot, Jojo, Aby and Troll, among others. Hip-hop don't stop.

The Treehouse Collective is known around town for its old-school vibe and crew of talented DJs — and, of course, for the wicked-awesome parties it throws for house-heads. If you only go to one THC party this year, make it Pitch A Tent, the annual Labor Day house-music extravaganza set in the mountains near Idaho Springs. The 2010 admission price was $10, a steal considering what you received: music blasting all night and well into the morning, a stage setup (with a dance floor), and nearly unlimited camping space where you could, well, pitch a tent. The organizers provided the tunes and good energy, you provided your own food and beverages — and a good time was definitely had by all.

RedLine Contemporary Art Center
Courtesy RedLine Contemporary Art Center

The work of Viviane le Courtois is all about community, waste, decay and everyday things, and those themes followed through in her RedLine installation How to Eat an Artichoke?, a complex study of the community of eating and its by-products. The exhibit began with an elaborately set, completely hand-built beetle-kill pine table, set with homemade ceramics and other accoutrements made of natural materials, including baskets of sumac branches, yucca and mulberry paper. A group came together to eat artichokes at the table; the scraped artichoke leaves that remained from their feast were left in the baskets to dry and curl up. While film documented the lovely, communal breaking of bread, the leftover leaves spoke of what happens after the feast. The whole thing was beautiful food for thought.

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