Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Molly Bartlett, Samantha Davis, Ethan Hill and CJ Macleod have to be the coolest kids at their high school. By day, they're regular teenagers; by night, they turn into SAUNA, an intelligent pop band that crams jumpy beats and reverb-heavy guitars into a perfect throwback package. When the band isn't performing, you can find its members at the foot of stages for Liz Phair, Black Angels and Best Coast shows — doing more music-history homework, the result of which is clearly displayed in their own explosive live sets. If you're lucky enough to catch SAUNA live, the band just might do an excellent cover of the Who's "Boris the Spider." How cool is that?
After a long run, the 15th Street Tavern closed in 2007, leaving a big hole in the downtown punk scene. And almost immediately, the Tavern's Myke Martinez started looking for a place where he could resurrect that beloved venue. It took a few years of hunting, but Martinez and Kris Sieger, another former 15th Street owner, finally found what they were looking for in the spot previously occupied by the Triangle. The two teamed with 3 Kings Tavern owner Jim Norris to overhaul the space, adding a stage and putting a tiki bar in back. While the Rockaway isn't an entirely authentic resurrection of 15th Street, it borrows elements from both that venue and 3 Kings to add something entirely new, and much needed, to the scene.
Gary is determined to make his fortune by catching a home-run ball. In Ian Merrill Peakes's committed, intelligent performance in the premiere of The Catch at the Denver Center Theatre Company, we saw all the character's complexity, his brilliance in calculating the odds, his grandiosity and delusion — and also his very human attempts to connect with his estranged wife and emotionally pinched father.
Nick Sugar was born to play the raucous, all-stops-out part of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In this Avenue Theater production, he got to strut, cross-dress, belt out numbers both sexy and forlorn, boast, whine, mock and beg — and all while he held the audience spellbound. And then he went further, reaching deep into his own soul to find a redemptive dignity amid the squalor.
In Reckless, Rachel is a crazy, farcical character, given to euphoria attacks and blindly ecstatic babble (only briefly interrupted by her husband's revelation that he's taken out a contract on her life). In the role, Julia Motyka sometimes bounded around the stage with an energy so manic you wanted to help those contract killers strangle her yourself. But at other times she was thoughtful and smart, and by the play's end, she'd deepened into someone you genuinely wanted to know. Motyka's smart performance in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production was anything but reckless.
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.
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.