For a long time, Boulder offered little for serious theater-goers — surprising for a town of painters, dancers, scientists and other brainiacs. That changed a dozen years ago, when husband-and-wife team Stephen Weitz and Rebecca Remaly founded the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. In the process, they brought serious theatrical professionalism to Boulder, and they've been mounting an eclectic mix of fascinating and mostly contemporary plays at the Dairy Arts Center ever since. The production you're seeing on any given night may be a disappointment or a revelation — or a twisty, clever, complicated mix of both — but we guarantee it will be worth your time.

Readers' Choice: Denver Center for the Performing Arts

There's a lot of good children's theater around town, but a visit to the BDT Stage's family-friendly summer offering should thrill any little one. To begin with, there's dinner, complete with a Shirley Temple and a kids' menu. Then there's the jovial, funny actor who introduces the show and will mention your child's name if you've booked a birthday bash. Finally, there's the colorful show itself, with all those exuberant comics, singers and dancers. And if the kids begin nodding off during this year's offering, Beauty and the Beast, they'll certainly bolt up, wide awake, at the chance to meet Beauty, the Beast, or perhaps the singing Candlestick at the end of the night.

Readers' Choice: Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Curious Theatre Company

"No Guts, No Story" is the maxim of Curious Theatre Company artistic director Chip Walton, repeated so often that audiences tend to chant the words with him when he opens a show. Walton has staged work by minority playwrights, satiric Englishmen and profoundly feminist women, upsetting plays and hilarious evenings. But though politics is almost always part of the event, these offerings are never simplistic or didactic. They may address an issue you've heard discussed a thousand times, but you'll come away with a deeper understanding of that issue, or an intriguing new take. This is exactly the kind of mid-sized, highly professional and visionary theater that elevates the Denver scene.

Garner Galleria Theatre

The offerings booked into the Garner Galleria Theatre by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts won't stress your brain or require profound, breathless attention. But if you want an evening of funny, crazed satire, tuneful song medleys or wonderfully silly skits, this intimate venue is the place to be. Corral some friends, dress as you please, order drinks from the friendly circulating waitstaff, and enjoy a good belly laugh. Or three.

Off-Center's Charlie Miller likes to explore the boundaries of theater. What happens if you do site-specific work? Throw out the conventional stage and the fourth wall? Create immersive pieces in which audience members become part of the action? Three years ago, he staged Sweet & Lucky in a RiNo warehouse; last year it was The Wild Party at the Hangar at Stanley Marketplace. These entertainments were a lot of fun and gave theater a new dimension, but they were also lush and hugely expensive to stage. Then came Bite-Size, five ten-minute plays by local authors in separate areas of BookBar, staged for a relatively bite-sized cost. This year Miller has a new Off-Center project, with an entirely different concept. If regular theater strikes you as too conventional or formal, prepare to be thrown off-center.

While most escape-room companies tend to cater to one type of player, and few deliver an experience that appeals to almost everyone, Puzzah is the exception to the rule. Novices will appreciate Puzzah's adaptive clue system that quickly learns their puzzle-solving pace and delivers automated clues to keep them on track. Experienced players will delight in Puzzah's unique and challenging puzzles, as well as the potential to unlock bonus puzzles if they progress through the game quickly. And since every booking is private at Puzzah, no one ever has to worry about playing with strangers. It's no puzzle why Puzzah is growing, with a third spot opening soon in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Readers' Choice: Denver Escape Room

All of the games at both Q the Live Escape Experience locations have a spooky slant and incorporate live acting in a way that will make you feel like you're in a fright flick. Horror fans will be particularly pleased by "The Conjuror" in Loveland, which runs for seventy minutes and includes a short theatrical performance before the game begins. Area Q, also in Loveland, is less intense, but offers ample opportunity to engage with the security guard who makes his rounds every ten minutes — a truly immersive escape-room experience you won't find anywhere else.

Looking for a fun night out for the family? Golden Puzzle Room is the answer. This venue caters to all ages, not just those over twelve, at relatively family-friendly prices. While "First Mission" is designed for children between six and twelve, the whole family can be put to work solving the mysteries of either of the spacious, well-lit escape rooms, and advanced puzzlers can even request their games be set up for maximum difficulty. There's a party room that you can book for snacking and socializing between games, with a screen where you can watch the other half of your group struggle to escape.

Comedy Works Downtown

Comedians and crowd members alike should toughen up before venturing into the roasty waters of Thick Skin, a gauntlet of burns, belly laughs and bad tattoos. Essentially the bullying older brother of the weekly New Talent Nights at Comedy Works, this show invites club-approved comics and aspiring locals to compete for the attentions of a restive audience and a cash prize. Co-hosted by Mike Stanley and a rotating coterie of Comedy Works pros, the evening abounds with comedic mayhem and culminates with the shame showdown of the bad tattoo contest. No matter which comedians' names get drawn from the "fuck it bucket," Thick Skin is a homegrown success story for the venerated comedy club.

Longtime Denver comedy fans no longer have to content themselves with fond memories, for the Grawlix three have come home to the Bug Theatre. A highlight in the halcyon days before the standup trio of Ben Roy, Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland headed west for production of their TruTV series, Those Who Can't, each Grawlix show promised top-notch lineups and a fresh batch of material from each host. But now the Grawlix has renewed its dedication to the scene with presentations of up-and-coming local comics along with late-night and Comedy Central-accredited headliners. While fatherhood, busy touring schedules,and waging an enthusiastic social-media campaign for a fourth season of Those Who Can't keep the boys busy these days, at one show each month, it'll feel just like the good old days.

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