Best Theater for Ingenious, Homegrown Work 2017 | Buntport Theater Company | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page

The five core artists who make up Buntport write all of their original plays together, experimenting with words, ideas and form, tossing out or subverting convention. They play with myth and literature; their sets are miracles of low-cost, high-labor ingenuity; the four performers who appear in almost every production are major talents, and they also work brilliantly with guest actors. Everything's experimental, but the shows are never stuffy — they're playful, funny, unpretentious and inviting, and if there's a deeper meaning somewhere, it'll be as unexpected as a drop of rain from a clear sky. This is where you'll find all the adventurous young theater-goers that every other company in town is trying to attract.

The Denver Center's annual New Play Summit, established by now-departed artistic director Kent Thompson, is a boon for playwrights, new or established, but it's also a window into how strongly the DCPA supports new work — and this translates into a boon for audiences, because the company stages full productions of the summit's most successful readings. As a result, we get a window into the wider theater world and are regularly introduced to some of the country's most fascinating up-and-coming talents. Watch for the next round of productions to be announced in April.

Over the past decade, 60 percent of Curious Theatre Company's offerings have been written by playwrights of color, LGBTQ playwrights or female playwrights. The company introduced Denver to Tarell Alvin McCraney, hailed as a successor to August Wilson, producing three of his plays over two years in what artistic director Chip Walton calls Serial Storytelling. There were also four plays in this program by Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, as well as outreach in the form of audience talkbacks and three panels. Diversity is often discussed in cloudy clichés, but Curious has been talking clearly and walking the walk for a long time.

There's no better way to see Shakespeare than in the fine, old outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre — particularly since amplification was provided a few years back (before that, actors' voices were sometimes drowned by traffic on Broadway) and comfortable seats are provided to set atop the stone benches. The atmosphere is magical. This year's outdoor offerings at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival are The Taming of the Shrew and Julius Caesar, and there will be a special reading of Henry VI, Part 3, presented on two nights. Hamlet and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead will be shown inside, at the University Theatre.

Black Box Repertory Company

Repertory companies employ a team of actors and stage shows in rotation: You can see the same actor play Hamlet one night and a silent bystander in another play the next. This is fun to watch — over time you develop your own favorite performers and start feeling a kinship with them — and it also brings stability to a shifting theater scene. But repertory companies are very rare these days, which makes the Arvada Center's new Black Box Repertory Company something worth celebrating. Under director Lynne Collins, the center has assembled some of Denver's best thespian talents for its company, which started out with a production of Tartuffe and will end the season with Waiting for Godot, described by director Geoffrey Kent as "King Lear meets Duck Soup." Jump on the merry-go-round.

Aurora Fox Arts Center

Traditionally, the Aurora Fox wasn't a place where you'd find surprising, knock-your-socks-off productions, but under the leadership of executive producer Charles Packard, the venue has been taking on risky and ambitious ventures. Porgy and Bess, for example, which requires a plethora of African-American talent and a slew of operatic and near-operatic voices. Or Chinglish, which requires Mandarin-speaking actors and "perfecting the comic rhythms in two languages and subtitles," according to the Fox's website. "We suspected that early 2017 might be a fine time to reflect on America's place in the global economy and how to begin to find out what we don't know." The play runs until April 9 and will be followed by Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, directed by Colorado Public Television's Eden Lane.

The shows at Miners Alley are never boring — a mix of old and new, dramas and musicals, with an occasional surprise thrown in. Even on opening night, the atmosphere is light and casual, and jeans are fine. Best of all, your very reasonably priced ticket — $18 to $28 — lets you attend the opening-night celebration, held in the bright, art-filled lobby with its well-stocked bar. Here you get to relax, chat and, if you want, congratulate the performers, who will be coming out for a snack or a drink as soon as they're out of costume.

Readers' Choice: Edge Theater Company

The Catamounts don't go by the motto of "Theatre for the Adventurous Palate" for nothing. Always fresh and vital, often weird, sometimes witty and now and then profound, the Cats ferret out intriguing scripts and produce plays unlike anything you've seen around here. They're talented theater professionals, but they're also crazy about food, and they prepare feasts for their Saturday night shows. We're not talking cheese plates or chocolate-covered strawberries, but delicious chef-created dishes that coruscate with metaphorical meaning. And the crew makes cocktails to match: Catamounts artistic director Amanda Berg Wilson's favorites include last fall's Fish House Punch, a blend of plain and peach brandies with lemon juice, and the Milton, mixed in tribute to the English poet John Milton and concocted from Rittenhouse rye whiskey, McGillicuddy's peach liqueur and other drips and drops. "We like boozy cocktails," she says, and she's counting on you to like them, too.

It took decades for movie snacks to rise above the basics of popcorn, hot dogs, candy and soda, and decades more to deliver drinks and full meals straight to audience members in their seats. Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse really cracked that code, and when it opened its Littleton outpost in 2013, Seth Rexroad was in the kitchen, ready to lead his team through a lineup of dishes and adult drinks that viewers would find just as tasty as the film they were watching. And Rexroad's menu just keeps getting better. For a reel treat, he's created the Beer Dinners and Feasts series, taking classics like Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga or Coppola's Godfather films and building delicious, multi-course dinners — complete with paired beer from Colorado's best breweries — around the movies' characters, themes and general awesomeness. Recently these special events have been coming fast and furious, giving film fans multiple opportunities every month to feed their stomach and their soul. And you'll soon have more opportunities to sample Rexroad's work; he's been promoted to executive market chef for Colorado as the Alamo readies a second location at Sloan's Lake and three more spots soon to be finalized around the state.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse

With all the satisfying and eclectic programming at the Sie FilmCenter, you need to keep your attention on the screen — which means you can't be distracted by uncomfortable surroundings. While some mainstream theaters are putting in fancy recliners, the Sie recognizes that those are more an excuse to grab forty winks than watch the program. So instead, it's kept the same comfy leather seats in its theaters for years; they're perfect for sinking into and soaking up the film. But the Sie isn't entirely averse to change; it recently remodeled the forty-seat Clausen theater with slightly larger Italian leather seats, which make you feel like you're sitting in that private screening room that you dream of installing in your basement someday.

Readers' Choice: Alamo Drafthouse

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