Off Limits

Just when you thought the My Twinn dolls were dead, dead, dead, they've come back -- Chucky-like! -- for a return engagement. And for the sake of little girls everywhere, let's hope that this sequel is more successful than Bride of Chucky.

Earlier this year, the Greenwood Village-based company responsible for cloning children in hard plastic declared bankruptcy, leaving behind a stack of unfulfilled orders and hundreds of disappointed would-be doll owners. For those who'd always been creeped out by the My Twinn display at Denver International Airport, though, the company's woes came as good news -- no need for another bullet to the head to kill off this horror. But in life, as in any good horror movie, it's never safe to look the other way.

Because in June, Denver toy company eToys Direct bought Lifelike Doll Company's assets out of bankruptcy for $1.06 million. Now it plans to unleash the beasts on an unsuspecting public in early September. "There is a lot of demand from parents for dolls that look like their children," says eToys spokeswoman Sheliah Gilliland. "The little girls love it."

The little narcissists loved them so much that orders for the dolls, which cost between $80 and $150, overwhelmed the company that had invented them. Lifelike Doll failed to deliver on hundreds of orders last Christmas. But eToys isn't legally responsible for finding that lost tribe. "We've been in the toy-fulfillment business since 1999, and we are good at scaling for the holiday season, so obviously we're making some changes to how the orders are fulfilled," Gilliland explains. "We've really tried to unravel what happened, but unfortunately, we don't have the complete information to be able to match up customers with orders. We feel terrible for those customers."

Those still interested in buying dolls that not only look like their kid but dress like their kid can explore their options on the updated website and in a My Twinn catalogue that will debut next month -- but not at DIA. Throughout much of the bankruptcy proceedings, the dollies continued to smirk from airport signs, acting as an unofficial welcoming committee for unsuspecting tourists, despite the fact that the little devils were no longer for sale. But that contract's finally up, and the ads have come down. Beware, Chucky.

Verse-case scenario: Don't bother asking José Mercado what he did on his summer vacation.

When the head of North High School's theater department wasn't getting ready for the school year that started this past Monday, he gave private acting classes and did voiceovers for Qdoba Mexican Grill and Good Times commercials. He's also the new voice of Coors Brewing Company on the company's voice-mail system. Well, half of the voice, at least: Chip Walton, the producing artistic director for Curious Theatre Company, answers callers in English, while Mercado does duty in Spanish. The beer behemoth hired the two theater buffs because they sound so much alike.

Mercado will read at "Politically Outrageous: Iraq Now," the August 29 edition of Stories on Stage at the Mercury Cafe, and performed for Walton two weeks ago -- his first time on stage as an actor rather than a director in more than two years. "I performed for the first time since I left L.A. at Curious Theatre's New Voices project," Mercado says. "I was nervous. I think I'm getting used to directing and not having to perform. I like the people at Curious. The environment reminds me of the Evidence Room Theater in L.A., where I worked with Megan Mullally."

This weekend, he'll be on Denver's biggest stage -- although as a director, not a performer -- when he brings North's spring musical, Zoot Suit Riots, to the Buell Theater for a one-night-only fundraiser to benefit North's theater department. All of the original cast members will be there, including lead Emily Hare, who is jetting back to Denver from her freshman year at the University of Hawaii.

"The big step was the kids getting to see Chicago last week," Mercado says. "They showed up in their costumes and handed out questionnaires for the theater. It was a breakthrough for the kids to see such a great show and a period piece. They all saw the film, but to see such a great show on that stage pumped them up, because they've gotten a bit used to the success at North. Now it's upped the ante of what needs to be done at the Buell. What I was personally wanting to do in the classroom was install an element of professionalism, and never did I think that the kids would get to perform on a professional stage." The riots start at 8 p.m., with tickets ranging from $15 to $30.

"We're there because it's a great show," Mercado adds, "but we're also there because we need the money to save the theater classes at North. The arts are always the first to go at public schools. But the students are eager to move on to another production."

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