The fall theater season was special. With few exceptions, area theaters and presenters – big or intimate — mounted shows that put their best work forward. (The best included the Denver Center’s “Hadestown,” Local Theater Company’s “Raised on Rondstadt,” and Butterfly Effects Theatre Company’s “The Royale.”)
The good news is that the winter season shimmers on, and spring looks likely to awaken theatergoers’ hearts and minds with entertaining and ambitious fare. If there’s sad news, it may be that some of this exacting work will take place without a couple of vital players.
After 17 years, Stephen Weitz and Rebecca Remaly, co-founders and leaders of one of the area’s finest theater companies, will step away from Butterfly Effect (known for most of those years as the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, or BETC). In true fashion, Weitz and Remaly don’t want their departure to upstage the Butterfly Effect’s final shows of the season – “Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B” and “Eden Prairie, 1971” – each of which reflects their love of smart writing and their fondness for ace acting.
Also taking a pause is Lakewood’s Benchmark Theatre. It’s a shame because the theater company has done such a compelling job at the space that previously housed the Edge Theater, but organizers promise it’s just a hiatus after a very engaged season. In fact, the company is planning an even more urgent work (remember “The COVID Wife”?) later in 2023.
Here’s what’s ahead.
“Acts of Faith.” Before she left for her new gig in Tampa, Aurora Fox’s artistic director Helen R. Murray made sure to program a season to remember and then made sure there were high-caliber artists to see it through. In Canadian David Yee’s play, Betty Hart plays a young African woman who is treated as a prophet. Heavy is the caul. Hart’s co-conspirator at Local Theater Company, Pesha Rudnick, directs the U.S. premiere of the play. I’m no prognosticator but I see a deeply satisfying experience. Jan. 20-Feb. 5, Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax, Aurora. email@example.com or 303-739-1970
“Alma.” In 2020, playwright Benjamin Benne was at the Denver Center workshopping his smart-funny if rending play about Alma and her 17-year-old daughter, Angel, on the eve of Angel’s taking the SAT. In a nice bit of synergy, the full production will have its local premiere a mile away when Curious Theatre Company stages “Alma.” Jan. 14-Feb. 18, Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma. curioustheatre.org, 303-623-0524
“A Hall Pass to the Galaxy” and more. Stories Onstage schusses into winter with its typically impressive roster of actors reading fiction and non-fiction pieces. Annie Barbour, Cajardo Lindsey and Anne Marie Nest start things off Jan. 15 with “A Hall Pass to the Galaxy” (Jan. 15 at Su Teatro, then virtual), a selection of works from sci-fi and fantasy virtuosos who are out of this world when they aren’t being scarily prophetic about it. February’s offering, “The Word Painter,” delves into the work of local luminary and bestselling author Peter Heller, who will be on hand for a post-reading discussion. (Feb. 19, then virtual) “A Hall Pass,” Jan. 15 at 2 p.m., Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive. “The Word Painter,” Feb. 19. For the full lineup and Su Teatro COVID-19 protocols, check out storiesonstage.org or call 303-494-0523.
“The Roommate.” Playwright Jen Silverman mines a seemingly “Odd Couple” set-up for tender, telling ore when she sends New Yorker Robyn to Iowa where she rents a room in the recently divorced Sharon’s home. Each woman is in her 50s, but Robyn and Sharon couldn’t be more different. How they change and challenge each other creates the fun, along with the occasional ache. Jan. 13-Feb. 19, Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. vintagetheatre.org or 303-856-7830
“In the Trenches: A Parenting Musical.” Local composers Graham and Kristina Fuller’s tale of young parenting might be dubbed “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change the Diaper,” as it plunges audiences into the brave new world of parenting. The show had a performance at 54 Below in New York City last July; now it returns fully formed for a run at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center. Jan. 20-29 Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 Main St, Littleton. townhallartscenter.org or 303-794-2787
“Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” The Broadway hit’s national tour arrives as one of the Denver Center’s hottest tickets. Richard Thomas stars as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Jan. 24-Feb. 5, The Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis. denvercenter.org or 303.893-4100
“The Death of Napoleon: A Play in Less Than Three Acts.” Denver’s gem of a theater company, Buntport, couldn’t have found a better portrait to herald the premiere of its 51st original work than Paul Delaroche’s 1814 oil painting of Napoléon Bonaparte. The world conqueror slouched for the painter a month before his exile to Elba. Though the play is not one for the historical record, it promises with winks and nudges to examine “the fragility of men losing power, a topic that remains very current.” Jan. 27-Feb. 18, Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan. buntport.com, or 720-946-1388
“A.I.M by Kyle Abraham. An Untitled Love.” The lauded choreographer and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award, Abraham and his company celebrate memories of love and Pittsburgh with a full-scale work set to the music of R&B star D’Angelo. Jan. 27, Gates Concert Hall at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Ave. newmancenterpresents.com or 303-871-7720
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Betsy Kelso penned the book and local musical savant David Nehls wrote the music and lyrics for this romp through the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Starke, Fla., where Pippi the Stripper’s arrival lays bare tensions and laughs. Jan. 27- March 5, Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Ave., Golden. minersalley.com or 303-935-3044
“Sophisticated Ladies.” The sultry song “Sophisticated Lady” is just one of the Duke Ellington knockouts to strut the stage in this musical revue of the jazz great’s work. “Mood Indigo,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “I Let a Song Go out of My Heart,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and so many more classics from the Great American Songbook are part of this show, which begins with Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington’s rise at New York’s Cotton Club and then delves into the more personal aspects of his life. Jan. 27-March 5, Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. vintagetheatre.org or 303-856-7830
Other upcoming show at Vintage include Jonathan Larsen’s “Tick, Tick … Boom!” (March 17-April 23) and Matthew Lopez’s Tony-winning play about three generations of gay men, “The Inheritance, Part 1 and 2.” (April 7-May 14).
“Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B.” Dear reader, if you presume that you’re in store for a smart, tart show on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary duo, you are correct. Playwright Kate Hamill is very good at teasing new and wry insights from 19th-century sources. Add this to her oeuvre, which includes the well-regarded revamps of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Feb. 2-25, the Butterfly Effect Theatre at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut, Boulder. betc.org. Tickets at thedairy.org or 303-444-7328
“Laughs in Spanish.” Playwright Alexis Scheer’s Off-Broadway play “Our Dear Drug Lord,” about a group of teenage girls calling forth drug cartel boss Pablo Escobar, was hailed for its deft maneuvering of laughs and gravitas. The stakes may be more grownup for Miami art gallery owner Mariana, the Colombian-Cuban protagonist of “Laughs in Spanish,” which is having its world premiere next month. As the legendary, globe-trotting arts fair Art Basel is set to start, Mariana’s gallery is cordoned off as a crime scene. The playwright’s skill at navigating the serious and the laughable is sure to be on display. Jan. 27-March 12, Helen Bonfils Theater Complex, 14th and Curtis. denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100
“The Year of Magical Thinking.” It’s been a little over a year since Joan Didion died. Kudos to the Aurora Fox for being oh-so-smart in reviving the literary doyenne’s 2007 stage adaptation of her memoir about the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, and even wiser to cast local actor Billie McBride as Didion in this elegiac, eloquent and clear-eyed one-woman show. Feb. 10-26, The Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax, Aurora. firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-739-1970
“Hotter Than Egypt.” Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Chris Coleman reunites with Yussef El Guindi for the world premiere of this Colorado New Play Summit alum (2020). Tour guides Maha and Seif get drawn into the wrinkles of long-married couple Jean and Paul, who are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. Will they make it to their 25th? Feb. 10-March 12, Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis. denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100
“In The Pocket: The Ballad of Bobby Trombone.” Artist-activist Jeff Campbell’s Emancipation Theater Company and the creative-edge-whetting Theatre Artibus have collaborated on this original about the history of jazz in Denver’s Five Points’ historically Black neighborhood and the legendary Rossonian Hotel. Feb. 9-19 at the Savoy Denver, 2700 Arapahoe. Info at theartibus.com. Tickets at onthestage.com.
“Our Town.” The Arvada Center invites audiences to return to Grover’s Corners to glean insights that reach beyond Thornton Wilder’s play-within-a-play structure, but also the small-town boundaries of the fictional New Hampshire town to deliver insights unique and broadly human. The 1938 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama will unfold in the more communal intimacy of the Center’s Black Box theater. Directed by Geoffrey Kent and cast with an inclusive array of talented actors, the three-act work is sure to mine what endures in the American masterpiece. Arvada Center for the Performing Arts, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Arvada. Arvadacenter.org 303-720-898-7200
Colorado New Play Summit. Arguably local theater’s premiere event, the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit will run one weekend instead of two this year. (Hint: Don’t wait to buy tickets.) Among past years’ featured playwrights: Tony-winner Matthew Lopez (“The Legend of Georgia McBride”), Lauren Gunderson (“The Book of Will”), Marcus Gardley (“Black Odyssey”), Lauren Yee (“The Great Leap”) and Samuel D. Hunter (a teensy play that’s making a big screen splash, called “The Whale”). This installment’s featured playwrights are Jake Brasch (“The Reservoir”), Vincent Terrell Durham (“Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids”), Christina Pumariega (“Joan Dark”) and Sandy Rustin (“The Suffragette’s Murder”). Feb. 25-26. Helen Bonfils Theater Complex at Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis. denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100
“Reckoning at the Red Herring Tavern.” Choreographer Garrett Ammon’s latest for Wonderbound just got its title. Don’t hold it against the local gem; he’s been busy prepping the company’s new home on Dahlia Street. That space should be ready to rumba (er, or other dances) for its May production. Meanwhile, the company will perform “Reckoning at the Red Herring Tavern” — a piece about twisting relationships — in its very nice substitute space with music that includes Tom Hagerman compositions. The DeVotchKa band member has contributed original music to many other theater productions, including the Denver Center’s “Much Ado About Nothing” last fall. March 1-12, Wonderbound (at the temporary space at 3865 Grape St., Unit 2). wonderbound.com or 303-292-4700
“Undone: The Lady M Project.” Last spring’s workshop of writers Hadley Kamminga-Peck, Anne Penner and Mare Trevathan’s tart reckoning of Shakespeare’s tragedy from the viewpoint of the Lady herself was already a hoot and a revelation. Can’t wait to see what’s in store when Local Theater Company presents a full production. March 9-26, at The Savoy, 2700 Arapahoe. localtheaterco.org or 720-600-7082
“1776.” Diane Paulus and Jeffrey Page’s brainy revisit of the Tony-winning musical (book by Peter Stone; music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards) arrives with a diverse and touted Broadway cast and nearly as much critical squabbling as John Adams had to navigate given that performers playing the authors and signees of the Declaration of Independence look nothing like the white men who gathered at the Continental Congress. Buell Theatre at Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis. denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100
“Toni Stone.” Did you watch Amazon Prime’s revisit of “A League of Their Own”? If you did, then you saw a composite character based at least somewhat on the protagonist of Lydia R. Diamond’s play about Toni Stone, the legendary (yet underappreciated) baseball player who became the first woman to play in the major leagues. Don’t whiff at seeing this one. March 10-April 2, Aurora Fox, 9900 East Colfax Ave., Aurora. aurorafoxarts.org or 303-739-1970
“Amerikan.” The very notion that a person could “fail” a DNA test is absurd enough, but when Jeff Browning does (he hoped to join the White Knights in his Virginia town) and a Black journalist takes up the story, it provides rich material for award-winning playwright Chisa Hutchinson’s darkly comedic work. March 11-April 15, Curious Theatre Company, 1180 Acoma. curioustheatre.org or 303-623-0524
“I Hate Hamlet.” When Andrew Rally, a television actor and the latest occupant of John Barrymore’s New York City apartment, utters three little words, the ghost of Barrymore (the actor credited even now with giving one of the legendary turns as the melancholy prince) arrives to challenge and bedevil him. Paul Rudnick’s funny play even has a lunatic production story that he recounted in a New Yorker piece titled “I Hit Hamlet.” March 31-April 23, Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Ave., Golden. minersalley.com or 303-935-3044.
“The Color Purple.” Alice Walker’s book and its adaptations continue to exert a hold on audiences. There’s a big-screen version of the musical slated for a holiday 2023 release. (It’s been adapted for film by Colorado New Play Summit alum Marcus Gardley, while hip-hop artist Blitz Bazawule directs.) Meanwhile, the Denver Center Theatre Company will mount Marsha Norman’s 2005 musical adaptation of Walker’s abiding drama about Celie, Shug and Mister. March 31-May 7, the Wolf Theater at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. denvercenter.org or 303-893-4100
“Eden Prairie, 1971.” Writer Mat Smart set this drama in a small town outside Minneapolis in part because the name struck a Biblical chord of loss and reckoning. The Vietnam years were big on loss and complicated when it came to reckoning. The night of the Apollo 15 lunar landing, Pete, who crossed the border into Canada to dodge the draft, returns home to visit childhood friend Rachel. A BETC production and part of the New Play Exchange’s rolling world premieres. April 6-29, at The Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut, Boulder. betc.org; tickets at thedairy.org or 303-444-7328
“Local Lab 12.” Local Theatre Company’s annual new play extravaganza hosts staged readings of four new works, plus workshops and conversations. And, yes, parties. April 24-30, The Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut, Boulder. localtheaterco.org; tickets at thedairy.org or 303-444-7328
“Damn Yankees.” Hey batter, batter. Fingers crossed that the Rockies won’t already be out of contention by the opening of the Arvada Center’s adaptation of this love-and-baseball and Faustian-bargain classic. Richard Alder’s music and Jerry Ross’ lyrics (“Whatever Lola Wants” was a home run) hit it outta the park and garnered the original 1955 production a Tony for best musical. Book by George Abbott and the aptly named Douglass Wallop, based on the latter’s novel “The Day the Yankees Lost the Pennant.” April 7-May 7, Arvada Center for the Arts, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. arvadacenter.org or 720-898-7200
“The Sandman: A Newfangled Western.” Gasoline Lollipops’ frontman Clay Rose created the characters that people this new Wonderbound dance piece. The alt country rock band will provide the live music for this new twist on the Western. May 3-14 at the Wonderbound’s permanent home at 3824 Dahlia St. wonderbound.com or 303-292-4700
“The Oldest Boy: In Three Ceremonies.” The parents of 3-year-old Tenzin must wrestle with their values and beliefs when a Buddhist monk and a lama land on their doorstep and inform them that their son is the reincarnation of a Buddhist lama and needs to go to India for his spiritual education. “What’s an Ohio-born mother and Tibetan dad to do?” asks this potent drama by Sarah Ruhl. What would you do? May 19-June 11, Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Ave., Golden. minersalley.com or 303-935-3044.
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