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Denver Center Theatre Company goes full throttle



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February 17, 2012 | 11:44 AM
I've recently seen three productions done by the Denver Center Theatre Company, the resident troupe at the Helen Bonfils Theatres in downtown Denver. Two of the plays, The Whale and Two Things You Don't Talk About At Dinner, left me feeling unsettled, but the third, Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, had me completely enthralled.

The Whale focuses on a grossly obese college professor who conducts all his classes via the internet. The actors handled difficult subjects with skill. In particular, Tom Alan Robbins as the enormous Charlie, did an outstanding job of portraying a character that was, in all likelihood, much more than twice the actor's actual size. The story isn't just about Charlie's size, although that is certainly the overarching connector. Because of his weight, his health is terribly compromised but he refuses to seek medical treatment. He has been squirreling away money for his estranged daughter and doesn't want it to be used for his own care.

The play touches on many aspects of the human condition in ways that are both troubling and off-putting, making it hard to describe the feelings that are generated by the production. Saying, "I enjoyed it," or "It was great," just don't fit the bill. This is one of those plays that I'll be mulling over for a spell.

The second play, "Two Things…" revolves around a Passover Seder to which a collection of relatives and friends from different cultural backgrounds have been invited. There is high comedy as well as high drama involved in the traditional Jewish celebration. While I loved much of the play, I was troubled by what was, in my own opinion, a liberal slant to the political aspects of the table conversations. I freely acknowledge that I lean right in my political views so it is not surprising that I was not smitten.

When I think of it, my reaction proves the validity of the plays title. I would only challenge the title's premise that limits the best-not-discussed list to "two things."

Both of the above plays run through Feb. 19 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. For tix and info, call 303-893-4100 or visit denvercenter.org online.

I'm happy to say that I unequivocally loved The Taming of the Shrew. While I've seen the Shakespeare play before, nothing prepared me for the fun that could be had by setting the Bard's classic in 1950's America. As was the case with the first two plays I've commented on, the costumes and sets for "Taming…" were right on target. I'm always impressed with the creativity of the folks at DCTC. Amazing. The attention to detail in all technical aspects of each of the reviewed plays makes me anxious to see what they will do next.

Back to the play…when a younger daughter falls in love and wants to get married, the girl's father informs her that she must wait until her older sister finds a mate. The problem is that Katherine (the elder sister) is, shall we say, difficult and very adept at chasing off any man that shows the slightest interest in her.

Enter Petruchio, a ladies-man who is set on civilizing the beautiful Kate and claiming her for his own. Their ensuing battle, for lack of a better word, leads to high hilarity. There is much travel involved and the various journeys are cleverly charted by way of a huge map of the United States that covers the entire upper back wall of the set. The names of Italian cities (the original setting of the play) are superimposed on the map. As the action moves from place to place, the map lights up so the audience may follow the action.

It's a beautiful, fun-filled production and makes watching Shakespeare fun for even the most reluctant theater-goer.

The Taming of the Shrew plays through Feb. 26 and I encourage you to see it. Call 303-893-4100 or visit denvercenter.org to secure your ducats to this charming offering.

I just returned from Florida where my sister and I visited assorted relatives. That was just the first of my scheduled field trips. Upcoming venues include Scottsdale AZ for spring training in March followed by Las Vegas to see my grands and greats and help my Westminster granddaughter celebrate her 21st birthday in April. I'll share some of the deets soon.

Until next time, I'll see you around town (or around the country).

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