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Theater Review: Dames At Sea

by Beki Pineda

DAMES AT SEA – Book and Lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller; Music by Jim Wise; Directed by Bob Wells. Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main Street, Littleton) through March 17. Tickets available at 303-794-2787 or

I have a serious question to ask. If we can put a man on the moon and machinery on Mars, why can’t someone in the industry invent a body mic that lays flat against the skin and not leave that ugly battery bump? Costumers work their little fingers to the bone to make beautifully fit gowns and dance costumes only to have the line destroyed by an unsightly bulge in the middle of the back. It must drive them crazy and certainly takes audience members out of the scene when a dancer turns his or her back.

Ok, enough grouching! Especially at the beginning of the review of this silly, fun-filled show. If you like tap dancing – and who doesn’t? – this is the show for you. This is a parody of so many of the great 30’s and 40’s musicals that featured sweet faced farm girls making it big on Broadway, usually with the help of a more experienced guy who falls instantly in love with them. This show celebrates that moment of recognition with the song “It’s You.”There’s always a diva in the way who gets dispatched by sea sickness or a twisted ankle. She – either Peggy or Ruby or Millie or whoever – has another dancer as a best friend and usually only has 24 hours to learn the whole show. Realistically, a total impossibility.

DAMES AT SEA takes all those clichés, adds its own special brand of brass, and gives them a BIG MUSICAL treatment with a cast of six! And what a cast they have assembled for this production. First, we have the brilliant Mary McGroary as Mona, the determined diva who starts the show with a sparkling solo tap number that takes its cue from “We’re in the Money” from 42ND STREET. Mary was either born in the wrong era and should have been a star performer in the 30’s and 40’s or, even better, she was born in the right era to show the millennial world what the 30’s and 40’s looked and sounded like. She channels her recent role as Helen Sinclair, a similar diva in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, to bring Mona to glorious life with a Tallulah Bankhead flair and Betty Boop eyes.

Her female cohorts in this little romp are two relative newcomers to Denver theatre – Chrissy Keane-Schmidt as the irrepressible Ruby and Carie Millard as her tap happy best buddy Joan. Both bring a blonde bounciness to their roles and fall into the charm of this parody with ease. The men in the cast are led by local favorite Matt LaFontaine as Dick, the “sailor of my dreams.” His boyish appearance exudes charm which he complements with top notch dancing and singing. John Mackey as Lucky wins the heart of Joan and promises her a “Choo-Choo Honeymoon.” Stephen Turner is back and rested after his turn as Scrooge over the holidays to play the director of the show being rehearsed and the Captain of a naval battleship that becomes a Broadway stage.

As usual, the technical team at Town Hall comes through and joins in on the fun of bringing this big musical to their small stage. Bob Wells directs with his always sure hand, comic gifts and theatrical confidence. Michael Duran’s set pieces capture the opulence of a Busby Berkeley number and include confetti bombs for the battleship. Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry’s costumes glitter and shine (although the “Singapore Sue” cheongsam’s could have used the help of an iron). It is always easy to hear the lyrics and dialogue at Town Hall because Sound Designer Curt Behm knows how to balance both equally. Rob Costigan and Bob Bauer provided hand written musical scores and transparent umbrellas as well as all the other props to make the show bright.They all help Town Hall present the total picture

This little show that could had an arduous journey to a Broadway opening. Originated as a short cabaret sketch, it opened at Caffe Cino, an Off-Off-Broadway coffee house/performance space in 1966 after being pitched by its creators all over town. Its success there resulted in it being beefed up with more songs to a full fledged musical and it moved to an Off-Broadway theatre in 1968 where it enjoyed a long run. In the original production, the show featured the talents of a 17-year-old real life Ruby, Miss Bernadette Peters in her first New York role. While it enjoyed hundreds of professional and community productions, a run in London’s West End, a TV adaptation (with Ann Margret as Ruby and Ann Miller as Mona), and an Off-Broadway revival, it wasn’t until 2015 that it finally made it to Broadway. While the three creators enjoyed careers in the arts, they never managed to match the success of DAMES and by the time it reached Broadway, all three had gone to their big opening night in Heaven. Denver audiences don’t have to wait that long to see it again.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

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Theater Review: United Flight 232

by Beki Pineda

UNITED FLIGHT 232 – Adapted by Vanessa Sterling from the novel by Laurence Gonzales; Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson. Produced by The Catamounts (presented at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut) through March 9. Tickets available at  303-444-SEAT or

These are the facts upon which this production is based: On July 19, 1989, a United flight left Denver at 2:09 bound for Philadelphia with a stopover in Chicago with 296 souls on board. At 3:16, an hour into the flight, a rotor on the DC10’s rear engine split apart and exploded backward slicing all three hydraulic lines to the steering mechanisms which kept the plane aloft. Within 14 seconds, the crew lost the ability to steer the plane and it began a slow journey down making large right hand circles. The flight crew fought to keep the plane horizontal and in the air while the attendants worked to calm the passengers and prepare them for–at best–an extremely bumpy landing or–at worst–a crash that would be deadly to many, if not all, of them. At 4:00 on a sunny afternoon in July, what started as a routine flight became an exercise in survival. We know from the beginning that 111 died in the ensuing landing on an abandoned landing strip at the Sioux City, Iowa airport, but 185 survived. This is the story of the small acts of courage that created this incredible survival rate.

The nine actors in this production play all members of the flight crew – cockpit and cabin – and twelve of the passengers. With only metal chairs that are carried with crisp precision to different positions to simulate the seats in the aircraft, they take us step by step through the afternoon. They insert personality and humanity into each character, revealing their innermost thoughts as they prepare for the inevitable. An added twist to this flight was that there were 48 unaccompanied minors on board as a part of a Children’s Day promotion by United. Many passengers paired themselves with one of the kids to steady them and give them assistance in getting out of the aircraft after the landing. In a true ensemble presentation, part of the story is told in first person dialogue, other parts are like an FAA report recreating the incident, and some are given the air of a story repeated at the dinner table for the tenth time. The performance is riveting; even though you know from the beginning how this is going to end, getting there is an engrossing process.

The actors – Archie Archuleta, Tesha Farris, Sam Gilstrap, Karen LaMoureaux, Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Jaxon Maxwell, Josh Robinson, Austin Terrell, and Maggie Tisdale – bring life to each character they introduce, making the narrative easy to follow. Passengers are introduced by name and seat number, which we learn was part of the survival roulette. Anyone who lived in Denver at the time will remember the footage shot through a chain link fence at the edge of the runway as the plane barreled into the ground, broke apart and flipped over and the stories of the passengers running into the nearby corn field to escape the smoke and fire.

The set consisted of the chairs mentioned before carried to various positions in the playing space and soft sculpture pieces hanging from the ceiling suggestive of clouds or the smooth flowing lines of airplane wings on a healthy flight, designed by Brian Freeland. The costumes by Steffani Day were simple uniforms of navy pants or skirts with white shirts, indicative of the typical flight crew garb of the time. Because of the staging, this production had one of the most complicated light plots I’ve ever seen executed. The audience seated around the parameter of the black box theatre on chairs identical to the set chairs found themselves with a cast member often standing or sitting next to them. A series of small spotlights picked up these individual actors as they stood to speak their next lines. Which meant to keep the narrative flowing from actor to actor, the lights were bouncing off and on from all over the stage, in addition to illuminating the center of the stage for the many group scenes. The genius behind this complicated design was Matt Schlief who, in spite of his fourteen yeas of lighting experience, is designing his first show for Catamounts. In addition to having a great light design, you also have to have the person who can calmly execute it. In this production, that is the Stage Manager Laura Owsley (also on her first assignment with Catamounts) who deserves a special pat on the back for keeping her wits about her and all the actors in the light.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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Theater Review: Lost In Yonkers

by Beki Pineda

LOST IN YONKERS – Written by Neil Simon; Directed by Warren Sherrill. Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse (1224 Washington, Golden) through March 3. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or

It’s a well known fact that Neil Simon drew from his painful early years and personal experiences for many of his plays. The Eugene trilogy chronicles his teen years and parent’s break up in Brighton Beach, his training and service in the Army Air Force Reserve, and his beginnings as a comic writer on radio and TV. It’s also documented that, when his parents split, he and his older brother were often sent to live with family relatives. So it’s reasonable that the time documented in LOST IN YONKERS is also based on a personal experience of being a boy abandoned and scared in a strange place. What is hard to find out is was his father’s mother really as domineering as she is portrayed? Did he really have an autistic aunt? Was his uncle a bag man for the mob in New York? In order to bring these characters to such glorious fruition, he must have at least known people who were somewhat like these unforgettable characters.

And there you have the basic plot. Father has to go on the road for a job and leaves his two sons with his scary mother and disturbed sister. The boys – who have natural wit and have learned that humor is a great defense mechanism – bond over a common enemy and try to make the best of a bad situation. Much to the audience’s delight. This is typical Simon – an ensemble of characters thrown together who survive by their wits and innate good nature in a painful comedy full of zingers. He gives his audience real life from a grim point of view, covered with laughter. He said once that he wanted his audiences to fall out of their chairs laughing. However, the tugs he gives to our heartstrings often bring tears of another kind.

Miners Alley knows how to do Simon. They have had very successful productions of a number of the 34 scripts he leaves behind (including two rewrites of THE ODD COUPLE). They put this production in the very able hands of Warren Sherrill and said, “Have fun.” And he and the cast did. Denver Grande Dame Deborah Persoff, a gentle and loving person in real life, breaks out her best Mrs. Danvers to totally intimidate her entire family including her new young charges. After the horrible description of her character given the boys by their father, you expect her grand entrance to be announced by trumpets and a cannon spray of black glitter. She is described by her son Louie as having “eyes like two DA’s” and, in spite of everything, remains crusty to the end. She has controlled, manipulated and ruined the life of her childlike but lovable daughter, Bella, played with astonishing authenticity by Haley Johnson. Her stammering fearful characterization is painful and funny all at the same time. She is forceful only in protection of those she deems needy and in her inability to change her mental pictures of how certain things are going to happen. Her innocence gives her the right to be honest; her lack of filters gives her the opportunity to tell the truth; her joy in the simple and familiar in life brings her and her audience great happiness.

The boys in the center of the drama are given life by Ben Feldman as the younger Arty (or Arthur as his grandmother insists on calling him) and Dee Jimenez as Jay, his three year older brother. The “We’re both in the same boat” camaraderie and competition between the two is a delight to behold. Arty’s toe to toe with Grandma over the medicinal mustard soup she doles out earns her begrudging respect. His slower speech pattern illustrates his confusion and dismay over what has happened to them both. Jay (or Jacob a la Grandma) is full of teenage energy and frustration.  He wants to find his grandmother’s hidden treasure and get his family back together again and away from this toxic environment. They both love their Aunt Bella and appreciate all she has done for them, but can’t understand this bewildering world they find themselves in.

A breath of fresh air arrives with Uncle Louie portrayed by a slicked back and sharpened Damon Guerrasio. You can see Jay growing up to be like Uncle Louie while Arty will always be more subdued and thoughtful like his father. Louie arrives carrying a mysterious black bag and gives the boys a clear look into the family life back when he and Eddie, his brother, lived with their mother in this house. He is on the run from a couple of mob hotshots that are trying to recover whatever is in the bag, breezing in and out quickly, just long enough to befriend and impress the boys with his derring-do. Rory Pierce plays Eddie, the boy’s father and a grieving widower who has to take a job on the road to pay his wife’s medical bills despite his own health problems. He is torn by his need to made a decision that will put his boys in this place at this time with this woman who he has never been allowed to love. Rory brings his loving but long-suffering persona to life once again.  The final cast member is the last sister of the family, Aunt Gert, played with breathless anxiety by MacKenzie Beyer.  Her short but meaningful appearance gives testimony to the long lasting effects of an abusive childhood.

The technical team at Miners once again brings their collective talent to the forefront in support of the production.  Mr. Simon would be proud of you all.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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Theater Review: The Diary of Anne Frank

by Beki Pineda

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK – Written by Wendy Kesselman; Directed by Christy Montour-Larson. Produced by the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities (6901 Wadsworth, Arvada) in repertory through May 17. Tickets available through  720-898-7200 or

In German, a Kesselman is a maker of copper pots or kettles – in other words, a tinker. Wendy Kesselman tinkers just a bit with this familiar script based on the diaries written by Anne Frank during her isolation with her family during WWII. The original play that we’ve all come to know was written by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a very successful playwriting duo, in 1956, only ten years after the death of Anne. Kesselman includes most of the scenes that have grown familiar to all theatre goers over the years, but adds sections of Anne’s writing that explore her growing sexual awareness and her true feelings about some of her fellow captives. Some of these passages had been kept from publication by her father who edited the diaries into the first published edition.

In removing the always awkward first scene of the original version which started the play with Mr. Frank returning after his own release from captivity to the annex where they had spent two years before being discovered by the SS, Kesselman made the opening scenes the more natural arrival of the participants to the house at the beginning of their experience. The scenes we love – the fur coat incident, the Hanukkah gifts, the burgeoning romance with Peter, Anne’s arguments with Dussel – are supplemented by some interesting new twists to the script. The radio plays a more important part in this script, being their source of information about the world outside and the war. Dussel is married in this script; Mr. Van Daan, while still being the “villain” of the group, has a new humanity, a softer side. We see him carving a menorah for their holidays and he seems genuinely sorry about the fate of the fur coat. Mrs. Van Daan still comes across as a woman fighting against growing older by flirtatious behavior, but seems to mellow more as the years go by. A dental scene was added for Mr. Dussel. The ending – always horrendous – is made even more poignant by adding not only the welcome news of the pending liberation, but also by an unexpected feast of strawberries. But one small but powerful bit I really missed. In the original script, Mrs. Van Daan greets Anne’s arrival back in the living room after a “date” with Peter in the attic with an all-knowing “A-Ha!” that always stopped the show.

The logistics of this script are always difficult to arrange. Everything used in the course of the performance has to have a storage space on the stage when it starts. A few things are brought in by Miep and Mr. Kraler who are their outside contacts and helpers. But for the most part, everything has to be there from the beginning since there are so few opportunities to leave the stage to grab food, books or other props. Because of seeing the show so many times, I was watching but did not see the outside delivery of anything. Also there is so much “dead” time for many of the actors while they are on stage but not actively engaged in the current scene. This cast, under the guidance of Director Christy Montour-Larson, were kept busy every moment they were on stage with activities that were appropriate and natural. They were knitting or sewing or reading or writing or, in the case of Mr. Dussel, polishing his dental equipment. They automatically took their shoes off at the appropriate “quiet” times. At one point, Mrs. Van Daan and Mrs. Frank sat side by side knitting like twin Madame DeFarge’s.

It is a testament to the talent and commitment of this cast that they managed to live within the logistics of the script and make it all seem natural in a confined space. They all stayed on the set during the intermission, continuing to live their lives as though the audience wasn’t moving around them to get to the lobby. Clothes got changed on the set and in the bathroom; beds got made; the next scene got prepared, and the cast rested while waiting for the return of the audience. It is a testament to the talent of Brian Mallgrave, the Scenic Designer, who created the cramped living quarters but still found ways to “hide” everything that they needed to perform the story. The prop shop, headed by Meghan Markiewicz, found all the realistic 1940’s set dressing and essential props, like the dairies. The costumes designed by Clare Henkel added to the authenticity of the production while the Lighting Design by Shannon McKinney added drama and tenderness to the evening. The occasional interruption by outside noises of Storm Troopers marching and sirens going by, the authentic sounding radio broadcasts, and the low-playing musical background in a Sound Design by Jason Ducat also enhanced the production.

These cast members are the 2019 Black Box Repertory company which means we get to see them in two more productions yet this spring. While Darrow Klein only performs in this piece of the rep, she is an absolutely perfect Anne. Knowing that she can’t possibly be only fifteen, she nevertheless displays both the exuberance of optimistic youth and the fear inherent in living in confinement. She also looks surprisingly like the real Anne. She is joined by Emily Paton Davies who plays down her natural beauty to near dowdiness to play her mother; Larry Cahn as the gentle soul that is Otto Frank, and Annie Barbour as her quiet loving sister. The Van Daan’s are the bigger than life Abner Genece and Emma Messenger with their son Peter being played by fresh out of college Daniel Crumrine.  Zachery Andrews puts aside his leading man good looks to bring humility and age to Mr. Dussel. In smaller but important roles as the outside helpers, Regina Fernandez is Miep and Lance Rasmussen is Mr. Kraler.

It will be SO MUCH fun to see them come together as the next two productions are opened. THE MOORS – a comedy set in the 1840’s – and THE BASIN STREET SOCIAL CLUB – a remake of a Restoration Comedy set in a modern day Mardi Gras – make up the remainder of the repertory season this spring. You will have to consult the calendar on the Arvada Center’s website to see what is playing when. But it will be worth your while to see them all and see this powerful group of actors perform in very different roles in all three.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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Theater Review: The Whistleblower

by Beki Pineda

THE WHISTLEBLOWER – Written by Itamar Moses; Directed by Oliver Butler. Produced by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company (14th and Curtis, Denver) through March 10. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or

The title and accompanying thumbnail description used in the publicity for this new play at the Denver Center gave the impression that this was going to be a piece about a man who worked at or infiltrated an organization that was behaving in some way illegal or unethical and exposed them.  In fact, the Wikipedia definition of whistleblower is “a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public,” It also notes that “whistleblowers take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.”

Eli, our titular hero in this episode, does not, however, engage in the traditional whistleblowing. Instead he has an epiphany when he is describing his newest idea for a TV program to a producer that involves a “real” whistleblower. The moment is subtle and, for awhile, you in the audience are like the other characters in the play in wondering what the heck is going on with this guy. He leaves the pitch session even though he has the green light; dismisses his agent; offers some kind advice to the agent’s overworked assistant and leaves. He proceeds to embark on a sort of personal five step program to clear himself of past mistakes made, conversations avoided, situations overlooked or patronized too long. Starting with his girlfriend and parents, he unfilters his dialogue and takes it upon himself to “correct” the patterns of behavior they have long ago accepted. So technically, he’s blowing the whistle on the life he has built up.  Successful by most terms but now unsatisfactory to him as he perceives it built on falsehoods and “settling.” Not illegal or unethical, just not correct.

His odyssey takes him to the homes of friends and a past girlfriend, even onto the boat of a stoner friend. As he empties himself of the guilt he didn’t know he was carrying, his 24 hour journey slowly begins to run out of steam. We know Eli will find the way because he still has the soul to appreciate a beautiful sunset, the lure of birdsong, and recognize a truth when he hears it. A random act of kindness from a unexpected source brings him back to the possibility of a different, more authentic way of living.

The cast features long time alumni of the early Denver Center days, Bill Christ, in the duel roles of the producer and Eli’s father. Local favorite Leslie O’Carroll brings her own special down-to-earth realism to Hannah, Eli’s mother. The remaining five are talented theatre gypsies from all over the country led by Karl Miller as the troubled but determined Eli. His confusion is genuine and his determination to be true to his new perception is authentic. His friends and family – while they may not approve of his methods – approve of him and this knowledge of their love helps him move forward. Meredith Forlenza plays his faithless out-for-herself girlfriend and Lisa, the pregnant wife of his best friend, with cunning and selfishness as Allison and the protection of a Mama Bear toward her friend as Lisa. Landon Woodson is especially shallow and cut-throat as Dan, Eli’s agent and especially caring yet callow as the henpecked Jed, a best friend. Allison Jean White pulls triple duty as Sophie, the soft spoken assistant to his agent; Rebecca, his drug dealing, in-denial sister; and Eleanor, the ex who was hurt the most by his selfish actions. Ben Beckley as Max, the stoner painter, has a smaller part but he gets to drive the motorboat! Yes, a full sized motorboat is featured in this production. That is going to make it seriously difficult for smaller theatres without the Denver Center’s resources or technical expertise to do this show.

A thoughtful evening that will linger in your mind.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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Theater Review: Anna Karenina

by Beki Pineda
ANNA KARENINA – Written by Kevin McKeon from the novel by Leo Tolstoy; Directed by Chris Coleman. Produced by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company (The STAGE Theatre, 14th Curtis, Denver) through February 24. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or
  I’m always interested in connections. How do people find each other? In the case of casting this beautiful and brilliant production, how did Kate MacCluggage find herself cast in the iconic role of Anna? It may have started when she took a major role in Portland Center Stage’s production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST several years ago when ANNA director Chris Coleman was Artistic Director there. A beauty and talent such as hers would be hard to forget when it came time to cast Anna. Most of the other newcomers to the Denver Center – Allison Altman as Kitty, Kyle Cameron as Levin, James Shanklin as Karenin, and the handsome Patrick Zeller as Count Vronsky – all have a mostly East Coast career and came through the casting director Harriet Bass, who helped Mr. Coleman cast his original production in Portland. Gareth Saxe who has built a career on Broadway (as Scar in THE LION KING) also has Colorado roots through several years at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and appearing in the all-male MACBETH at the Denver Center last season. The remainder of the cast are all from Denver’s amazing acting pool and more than hold their own on the stage with these theatre gypsies.
  This is a stunning production whose script reduces the 1000 page Tolstoy book to a succinct and comprehensive visual presentation with a combination of narrative and dialogue. The ensemble members are allowed to set the stage and move the evening forward by giving background, history, and story line through narrative lines while permitting the main characters to stay in character and not break the fourth wall. As a result, most of the three main stories get told. Society weighs heavily on the love story of the married Anna and the handsome Count Vronsky who sweeps her off her feet. The tremulous tale of Levin and Kitty is the second and the turbulent relationship of Stevi and his wife, Dolly, make up the third. Mother Russia with all her turmoil, politics, social mores, morality and history is a character all unto herself, playing an important role in the overall production.
  The technical aspects of the show make it a feast for the eyes and ears. Mr. Coleman has been able to utilize some of the talented people he worked with in Portland to enhance this production as well. Tony Cisek designed the simple but versatile set with its tall Grecian columns, painted floor, and drop in and out furniture. Jeff Cone designed the amazing costumes which delineated the class system in St. Petersburg through color and line. A special shout-out to the six backstage dressers who assisted with some of the fastest changes seen recently. A noblewoman character would say her lines, gracefully and slowly exit, and re-enter as a peasant woman less than a minute later. Matthew Nielson created the sound design that allowed us to enjoy the original music that Randall Robert Tico created for this and the Portland production. This amalgamation of talent which includes Diane Williams’ spectacular lighting design which gave clarity and drama to the stage pictures combine to benefit ANNA theatre attendees.
  We all know the story of the fateful love affair in its simplest terms – girl meets count, trouble ensues – having either read the book or the Cliff Notes for a World Literature class. Or seen one of the 13 movies, 3 mini-series, 9 operas, or 4 ballets which have previously told the story. But this script allows the nobility and humanity of the characters to emerge. Anna did not enter into this relationship lightly; it was torment for her in the beginning and a different sort of torment in the end. Vronsky wanted the easy love to go on forever and when the day to day maintenance of the relationship changed, he floundered on the rocky shore of normalcy. Karenin could have been portrayed as a stuffy old man who allowed himself to be cuckolded. Instead we get a thoughtful man aware of the age difference between his young wife and himself who needed only discretion in order to remain aloof to what was happening around him. When the time came, he put his hand out in forgiveness, only to be shamed again. The minor characters too become alive and invested in their characters and the decisions these characters make – right or wrong. We root for them all to achieve their own personal peace in the world, knowing that for some, it will not happen.
  A touching and fulfilling theatre evening. It will be a long time before you see a show so completely beautiful as this. Mr. Coleman is making his mark on Denver theatre already. PS:  for recognizing the talent we have right here in Denver and using them to great advantage in your productions.                                                                                           
  A WOW factor of 9!

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Theater Review: Anna Karenina

by Beki Pineda
ANNA KARENINA – Written by Kevin McKeon from the novel by Leo Tolstoy; Directed by Chris Coleman. Produced by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company (The STAGE Theatre, 14th Curtis, Denver) through February 24. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or
  I’m always interested in connections. How do people find each other? In the case of casting this beautiful and brilliant production, how did Kate MacCluggage find herself cast in the iconic role of Anna? It may have started when she took a major role in Portland Center Stage’s production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST several years ago when ANNA director Chris Coleman was Artistic Director there. A beauty and talent such as hers would be hard to forget when it came time to cast Anna. Most of the other newcomers to the Denver Center – Allison Altman as Kitty, Kyle Cameron as Levin, James Shanklin as Karenin, and the handsome Patrick Zeller as Count Vronsky – all have a mostly East Coast career and came through the casting director Harriet Bass, who helped Mr. Coleman cast his original production in Portland. Gareth Saxe who has built a career on Broadway (as Scar in THE LION KING) also has Colorado roots through several years at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and appearing in the all-male MACBETH at the Denver Center last season. The remainder of the cast are all from Denver’s amazing acting pool and more than hold their own on the stage with these theatre gypsies.
  This is a stunning production whose script reduces the 1000 page Tolstoy book to a succinct and comprehensive visual presentation with a combination of narrative and dialogue. The ensemble members are allowed to set the stage and move the evening forward by giving background, history, and story line through narrative lines while permitting the main characters to stay in character and not break the fourth wall. As a result, most of the three main stories get told. Society weighs heavily on the love story of the married Anna and the handsome Count Vronsky who sweeps her off her feet. The tremulous tale of Levin and Kitty is the second and the turbulent relationship of Stevi and his wife, Dolly, make up the third. Mother Russia with all her turmoil, politics, social mores, morality and history is a character all unto herself, playing an important role in the overall production.
  The technical aspects of the show make it a feast for the eyes and ears. Mr. Coleman has been able to utilize some of the talented people he worked with in Portland to enhance this production as well. Tony Cisek designed the simple but versatile set with its tall Grecian columns, painted floor, and drop in and out furniture. Jeff Cone designed the amazing costumes which delineated the class system in St. Petersburg through color and line. A special shout-out to the six backstage dressers who assisted with some of the fastest changes seen recently. A noblewoman character would say her lines, gracefully and slowly exit, and re-enter as a peasant woman less than a minute later. Matthew Nielson created the sound design that allowed us to enjoy the original music that Randall Robert Tico created for this and the Portland production. This amalgamation of talent which includes Diane Williams’ spectacular lighting design which gave clarity and drama to the stage pictures combine to benefit ANNA theatre attendees.
  We all know the story of the fateful love affair in its simplest terms – girl meets count, trouble ensues – having either read the book or the Cliff Notes for a World Literature class. Or seen one of the 13 movies, 3 mini-series, 9 operas, or 4 ballets which have previously told the story. But this script allows the nobility and humanity of the characters to emerge. Anna did not enter into this relationship lightly; it was torment for her in the beginning and a different sort of torment in the end. Vronsky wanted the easy love to go on forever and when the day to day maintenance of the relationship changed, he floundered on the rocky shore of normalcy. Karenin could have been portrayed as a stuffy old man who allowed himself to be cuckolded. Instead we get a thoughtful man aware of the age difference between his young wife and himself who needed only discretion in order to remain aloof to what was happening around him. When the time came, he put his hand out in forgiveness, only to be shamed again. The minor characters too become alive and invested in their characters and the decisions these characters make – right or wrong. We root for them all to achieve their own personal peace in the world, knowing that for some, it will not happen.
  A touching and fulfilling theatre evening. It will be a long time before you see a show so completely beautiful as this. Mr. Coleman is making his mark on Denver theatre already. PS:  for recognizing the talent we have right here in Denver and using them to great advantage in your productions.                                                                                           
  A WOW factor of 9!

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Theater Review: The Rembrandt

by Beki Pineda

THE REMBRANDT – Written by Jessica Dickey; Directed by Stephen Weitz. Produced by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Presented at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut) through March 3. Tickets available at 303-444-7328 or

Grief tied together in four scenes. The ever-lasting yearning to leave a legacy – to be remembered. The power of art to communicate the human condition even across the generations. These large subjects are tackled with grace and humor in BETC’s current production.

Three museum guards – one new, one experienced and dedicated, the third a calm but privately troubled mentor – meet in a gallery to start their work day. They are joined by an amateur painter who wishes to copy a Rembrandt painting being displayed in the room. Through their conversation, we learn that Henry (the mentor to the new guard) is caring for his dying partner. Madeline (the copyist) just lost her beloved grandmother. Madeline and Dodger (the new guard) make a connection and are soon discussing the possibility of breaking all the rules by touching the art. Unheard of – can’t be done. But . . .   would anything happen if they did?

A channel opens up to Rembrandt’s studio in 1653. We watch as Rembrandt bemoans the necessity of taking a commission from a rich but unworthy Italian to paint a picture of a “philosopher.” Rembrandt’s lifestyle – nice houses, extravagant gifts for his wife Henny, elegant clothes – demands that he take this kind of paint-on-demand type of work. As he begins to prepare the canvas in a special but unorthodox way, his wife and son Titus arrive to commiserate with him over his insecurity about his personal legacy. Will anyone ever remember these trivial pictures he creates for his no-class clients? As he begins to work on “Aristotle With a Bust of Homer” now recognized as one of his best works of art, we enter Scene 3 and meet Homer.

Homer in 800 BC also ponders whether anyone will ever read The Iliad out loud as it was meant to be performed. He also contemplates the irony of the length of time it takes to really get to know someone and then too soon, they are gone. No one seems to realize their greatness while they are living it. All doubt that it will live into the future. Yet The Iliad is still taught to Classical Literature students the world over.

Finally we come back to the original character of Henry as he comes home to spend time with his dying partner also named Homer. They share pudding cups and reminisce about their earlier days. This Homer too wonders if anyone will ever read any of his eight books of poetry again. The immortal desire to be remembered rises once more.

It seems we must utilize all of our senses and create for ourselves the best life possible while we are in it and have faith that what is worthy in us will live on – either in our personal art or in the lives of our children and children’s children. Rembrandt’s Golden Chain of Being that connects Earth to Heaven in the studied painting reminds us of the chain of lives that link us to our ancestors and to our future.

This talented cast of five slide easily from character to character, era to era to bring the four scenes to life. Eric Sandvold is a gentle accepting Henry and a ribald Rembrandt. Jihad Milhem plays a dedicated museum guard who cares for Henry in the first scene and a compassionate medical caregiver who takes care of Henry’s partner in the fourth scene. Adrian Egolf’s natural charm enhances her characters of Madeline, the troubled copyist who finds herself coming out of grief and opening up to friendship, and Henny, Rembrandt’s understanding wife. Spencer Althoff with his handmade Mohawk plays the cheeky new museum guard and Titus, Rembrandt’s caring son. Jim Hunt brings his special magic to both Homer’s – ancient Greek and modern day cancer victim poet.

BETC does it again – found a script that provides entertainment and shines a light on the human condition and gives us a technically perfect production of it.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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Adventure Parenting: One mom’s mission to make her family have some winter fun

Creating memorable experiences

By Linzee Klinkenberg

Oh, how I aspire to be a mom who creates memorable experiences for her kids. I think back on my own childhood, growing up in Boulder and the countless times my parents took my sister and me sledding on the hill above Viele Lake. Now it’s my turn to gift my three rowdy boys with happy, snowy adventures. Such memories.

So bring it on, winter, I say. My family is going to make the most of these glistening, powdery days—whether they like it or not.

It turns out that happiness requires five willing participants, and I’m the only one that got the message on this particular day. But my ruthless (foolish?) determination to make memories persists; I am convinced that we have what it takes to enjoy the most fun ever risking our lives on a quarter-mile-long sheath of ice commonly referred to as a sledding hill.

illustration by jagoda

It almost ends before it begins when the reality of donning seven layers of snow gear equals a critical tanking of family morale. If anyone’s face had a smile on it, it’s lost in a pool of sweat by now. Still, I promise it’ll all be worth it.

The 10-minute drive unfolds without any marked strife, which boosts my withered confidence. Somehow, the kids are a bit jazzed about the prospect of riding a new sled—ah, the promise of speed and danger and potentially broken bones! My husband—a tough sell on family-outing fun—agrees to smile in at least one picture that captures the moment.

Here we go.

First kid down lives to see another day! Second son finds it hysterical to aim his sled at just the right angle to take his brother out at the ankles. Youngest of the family careens past both of his big brothers and scores the longest-run triumph.

“See you later suckers!”

It’s really happening: We have managed to get outside, actually use our overpriced gear and no one has peed his pants nor started bleeding yet. I’m practically live-action role-playing a shiny car commercial. Over-enthused, I heave myself toward the only jump and take flight down the hill.

I release an avalanche of expletives.

Then, “Move, move, move!,” I scream at an unassuming toddler and her dad unfortunately located directly in my path. My overeager parenting may finally prove fatal today.

Here comes the jump. And despite that I know nothing of physics, I’m well aware that my trajectory will probably result in the annihilation of an elderly lady and her small dog strolling, unassuming, across the snowfield. There is no redemption for running over seniors or pets. Especially pets, this being Boulder and all.

I must at least save the dog! Recruiting muscles I didn’t even know I have, I manage to hurl myself just left of total destruction.

And … I’ve completely split the back of my snow pants. Wide open. My mouth is filled with snow, and I may have broken a tooth, but I am blissfully distracted by the sight of my three children. Smiling! No: beaming.

This is their best day ever.

We proceed, as a family, to own that hill all afternoon. It doesn’t even matter that I can now tell which way the wind is blowing, thanks to my exposed backside. I eventually bust out a big thermos of hot cocoa, which warms my heart and the bellies of my red-cheeked boys. My mother taught me that every family outing is better with hot chocolate and, once again, she is right.

Two hours on that hill and I’ve savored the view of the ever-stunning Flatirons, all dusted in white, and I have relished the sound of my children laughing—mostly at my expense. I am renewed and my boys (husband included) are wonderfully exhausted. Only one glove has gone missing, and no small dogs were harmed in the name of our family fun. Success.

Our sledding day taught me a few precious lessons:

Wearing underwear is always a good idea.

Next, we really do live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and raising a family here commands both guts and gratitude.

Also, yes, one can absolutely get sunburned in the winter.

And hot chocolate does indeed make everything better.

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Theater Review: Celebration, Florida

CELEBRATION, FLORIDA – Written by Greg Wohead; Directed by Emily K. Harrison.  Produced by square product theatre (Presented at the Dairy Center, 2580 Walnut) through February 9. Tickets available at 303-440-7826 or

Two actors who have never met in real life take the stage and put on headphones as projections on a screen behind them outline their roles in the evening’s entertainment.  They are listening to instructions on the headphones from the playwright about what to do or say.  An interesting vintage video is shown behind them about the Walt Disney designed community that is Celebration, Florida, right outside Disney World.  Built to the exacting specifications of all Disney “productions,” it is a full community with a town square, its own police force and shops, and its own protocol – all designed to inspire nostalgia for your personal home town.  Like most of “the happiest places on Earth,” the façade of Celebration is built on dreams, imagination, and hope.

But finding the tenuous link between what was happening on stage and the desire for a perfect community in which to live was hard to find.  Until you consider Walt Disney with his messianic desire for control to Mr. Wohead’s dictatorial command of each performance of this piece, even though he has moved on to new projects and new locations.  Disney’s fanatic search for perfection dictated every part of each of his projects.  Mr. Wohead seems not content to write a script and turn it over to actors to interpret.  He inserts himself into each production through the tapes that are the “script” for the unsuspecting actors.

Each new pair of actors that tackle this project are put through their paces with no time to question what they are doing and why.  The embarrassment of trying to perform puppet-like without the comfort of a printed script, rehearsals, a familiar face on the other side of the stage is made even more difficult by the things that they are asked to do, such as run in slow motion, scream at each other, just standing and listening to the headphone’s inner instructions as the audience waits in silence.  Luckily for Mr. Wohead, most actors are game for a game and bring their generosity to the stage.

The most significant thing that seemed to come out of the evening was watching two strangers meet and bond over their mutual unique experience on stage.  This was a bold move by square product and hopefully, in theory, will be rewarded by new interest in a company that would take on an unspecified project such as this.  The biggest challenge of the production had to be finding the required number of new pairs of Front Range actors who didn’t know each other before meeting on stage.  For those of you who prefer a challenging, even avant garde (do people even use that phrase any more?) theatre evening, this one is for you.  They have been performing at the Buntport Theatre in Denver, but finish their run with a weekend of performances at the Dairy Center.

A WOW factor of 7.5!

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Louisville quartet Card Catalog is poised to release its first album

Is Card Catalog ready for a close-up and to start getting the wider recognition its members have earned?

By Dave Kirby

“When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the library a lot,” remembered Card Catalog singer and songwriter Jenn Tatro. “I used to kind of run around, mess with the books and mess with the card catalog.”

As she got a little older, she and her friends used to climb a tree to get on the library roof to joke around, tell stories and look at the stars in her hometown of Augusta, Kan., just east of Wichita. Naming her band after a warmly recalled artifact of that institution and her own childhood was a fond gesture to her past.

Tatro is still telling stories:

She rode high/she consumed the souls of men
Started out clean then she turned on them
Ran the show when she didn’t have a plan
Blamed others when things slipped through her hands
(from “Madame Crash”)

An unabashed Fleetwood Mac fan from her early years, Tatro combines that influence with darker, more angular influences from the early 1990s: Dolores O’Riordan and Rage Against the Machine. With her longtime songwriting partner, guitarist Dalton Clayton, Tatro and her band have crafted a compelling and provocative identity: a four-piece blues/folk/alternative rock collective. They focus more on songs than jamming in an area steeped in jam-based and electric music, where that ethic may represent an upstream swim for an aspiring rock outfit. Part bluesy swagger, part folkie murmur, part full-on rock rage, Card Catalog serves up a spiky alternative.

Card Catalog members left to right: Dalton Clayton, Jenn Tatro, Ricky Brewer and Kelton Kragor. (photo by Karen A Dombrowski-Sobel)

For most bands making the transition from cover band to originals and graduating from playing parties and small private functions to club dates and regional festivals, this is the time of both greatest freedom and greatest discipline. Free to define your art and let it mature without undue expectations from fans or club owners, you still need to craft it, nurture it, improve it and hear it as others may hear it, since most of them will be hearing it for the first time.

And you have to do that a lot.

“Up to this point, we’ve said ‘yes’ to pretty much every show we’ve been offered,” noted guitarist Dalton Clayton, a native Alabaman and avowed child of the school of Southern rock. “We’ve played kids’ birthday parties that were awkward as hell, we’ve played auctions for old folks’ communities, we’ve done cancer benefits for friends who were diagnosed. We’ve been offered shows at venues that maybe weren’t really our style, but we’ve done them anyway because we want to build as much stage experience as we can.

“I think our main focus right now is getting venues that we think will benefit us the most.”
Card Catalog won a Boulder Battle of the Bands competition in 2017, and their award included two recording days at eTown, where the band cut five of the songs that appear on their upcoming debut album, due to be released in January. Many musicians spend their whole lives preparing for a first album. Once that day arrives, things often happen quickly. The turn of the new year will see Card Catalog in action, playing a set at the Boulder International Film Festival and the manic community weirdness of Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, both in March.

But as the year rolls on and word gets out, there could well be more out-of-state club gig offers, festival invitations, more regular gigging and bigger venues in and around Boulder or Denver. Their online presence up to this point, a stanchion in any band’s development in the Internet age, has been limited due to copyright delays. (Drummer Ricky Brewer has past experience in bands and around the wider music industry, and has helped navigate management issues and outright copyright larceny. Yes, that happens.)

With a new record comes the campaign—social media, streaming services, press profiles and all the rest. But as the band members are still managing full-time jobs and/or school, are they ready to reach for the brass ring when their time comes around?

“I’m really ready,” Tatro said. “I have the flexibility to jump when the time comes.”

“I think the best thing [that came from my day job] was finding these two guys (Clayton and bassist Kelton Kragor),” she continued. “They are just amazing people in general, and I love having them on my team and in my life. I feel like we’re a family, and I don’t say that lightly.”

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Jessie Olson makes a life of knowing water, and she’s passing it along to her next generation

A Fish in Water

By Tanya Ishikawa

“Thank you, river, for the water!” exclaimed 3-year-old Margot, as water flowed from the faucet while she washed her hands.

“Hey mom, save some water for the fish,” the toddler warned mother Jessie Olson when it was her turn to wash.

Jessie Olson’s daughter, Margot, volunteering at a planting event.
(photos courtesy Jessie Olson)

Olson was delighted. As executive director at Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group (LWOG), her job goes beyond scientific analysis of the watershed and restoration of creeks and riparian areas. She also oversees the production of educational programs for all ages and the development of a community of watershed stewards.

“One of the easiest things you can do to educate children is talk about where your water comes from in your house. Most of our water on the Front Range comes from the Colorado River, and some comes from creeks,” said Olson. “Teaching about this has really worked well in developing Margot’s appreciation of water; she has a great sense of water stewardship.”

In 2015, Olson, with a master’s in environmental planning, began her career at LWOG. The organization was founded in 2003 to assist with mine reclamation work in the headwaters of the watershed near Jamestown and Ward. For 10 years, the main activity was water sampling, which was managed with just one part-time employee and a $20,000 annual budget.

After the 2013 floods, new stakeholder coalitions were created to develop a master plan for recovery. LWOG was identified as the entity to help carry out the plan in its watershed, and Olson helped assemble and manage a $9 million budget for restoration projects aimed at protecting human life and safety, improving in-stream ecology and reducing erosion and bank instability.

Her job has been complex, not only scientifically but also socially and politically, as most of the land along the creek is privately owned, rather than public, like along most other creeks impacted by the floods, such as the St. Vrain.

“It was a huge effort,” Olson admitted. “I’ve worked with 100 landowners so far.”

Mark Schueneman, a property owner who was asked to join the LWOG Board, said Olson’s knowledge of recovery efforts, patience and soft-spoken demeanor seemed to gain the respect of the landowners, design engineers, excavation companies and government agencies.

“Everyone had Jessie’s phone number—everyone,” Schueneman recalled. “Halfway into the project, she knew most all of the landowners’ names and their dogs’ names, when they were on vacation and what they did for a living. What’s mind-boggling to me is there were many other groups besides ours in the watershed that she was working with. She guided the recovery ship with an even keel and a temperament to match.”

Jessie Olson in her front yard in Lafayette.
(photos courtesy Jessie Olson)

With the first round of major projects completed, Olson is now starting on a new set of projects on a $2 million budget. She recently secured a grant for an adaptive management plan to keep streams resilient and completed a regional stream stewardship and recovery handbook in collaboration with multiple watersheds.

Olson finds it hard not to bring her work home and easy to bring her daughter to work events. Margot’s been volunteering for the watershed and the city of Lafayette since she was about 2 years old. She loves planting grasses and trees, and building fish and bird habitats.

“We definitely spend a lot of time outside as a family. The access to trails and nature is so great here,” said the 37-year-old, who has been an avid trail runner since she was in high school. “We really like going to Waneka Lake Park near our house and LaVern Johnson Park in Lyons.”

They love sitting along St. Vrain Creek looking at rocks and talking about whether they see “a lot or a little bit” of creatures in the water. Every spring, when the runoff from the snowmelt causes creeks to swell, they stop at bridges to see how powerful and dynamic the rivers and creeks have become.

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Longmont’s Code 3 Associates travels nationwide to rescue animals in the wake of disaster

Riders on the Storm

by Lisa Truesdale

Like a Boy Scout, Longmont resident BART is always prepared. Unlike a Boy Scout, however, BART isn’t a boy or even a person at all. It is the 82-foot Big Animal Rescue Truck carrying rescue and disaster response equipment used by Code 3 Associates, a Longmont-based nonprofit that responds to animal emergencies across the country.

When disaster strikes, BART can be ready to go in just a few short hours, filled with Code 3’s “Riders on the Storm” volunteers plus three boats, a pickup truck, 80 cages and crates, portable corrals, a triage center, rescue equipment of all kinds, generators, 800 gallons of fresh water, and everything that up to 11 people require to sleep, bathe and eat for up to a week before needing to resupply.

BART, Code 3 Associates’ Big Animal Rescue Truck, is a whopping 82 feet long, with enough room inside
to carry boats, a truck, rescue equipment of all kinds and accommodations for up to 11 volunteers. (photo courtesy Code 3 Associates)

“BART has everything we need,” explained Jim Boller, Code 3’s disaster training coordinator and response team lead. “That way, we can get right to work in a zero-resource environment, and the jurisdictions that called us in don’t have to worry about us bothering them for resources that they probably don’t have available anyway.”

Although Code 3 takes a small staff and a number of volunteers to disaster sites—most recently to North Carolina after Hurricane Florence—they also rely on groups of trained volunteers across the country, including off-duty and retired police officers, firefighters, veterinarians and humane-society workers. They help rescue stranded and injured animals of all types and sizes, from cattle and horses to pet rabbits, focusing on the safety of the humans—those doing the rescuing and those being rescued—as well as the animals. They’re also trained in other areas of animal welfare and rescue, including animal-related crimes, puppy mills, exotic-animal smuggling and more, though hands-on animal rescue is just one half of Code 3’s mission.

“We rescue animals, yes, but we also teach others how to rescue animals,” Boller explained.

In partnership with CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Code 3 offers classes and workshops nationwide to help first responders, animal control officers, veterinarians, technical animal rescue groups and others learn the skills needed to deal with animals during emergencies and disaster situations.

Additional volunteers are needed but they should be advised there is extensive training involved and potentially many nights away from home.

“I think the 2013 Boulder County floods were the only rescue effort I ever worked on where I got to sleep in my own bed each night,” Boller recalled.

He insists, though, that it’s all worth it. As a nonprofit, Code 3 is definitely not in it for the money. He and his fellow rescuers often work very long, tiring days in the pouring rain, working alongside devastated people who have lost their homes and all of their worldly possessions.

“We’re often able to reunite them with their animals, who might be all that they have left in their lives. Seeing the smiles on their faces is all the gratitude we ever need.”

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Boulder’s feline-only veterinary clinic is keeping the dogs away so the cats can play

Scaredy Cats No More

By Sara Bruskin

Pet owners all know the fear and uncertainty of realizing their animal is sick. It can be hard to determine what’s wrong and whether it’s serious enough to warrant a trip to the vet. According to Dr. Fern Slack, cofounder of Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center, cats can be especially difficult to diagnose because of their evolutionary position on the food chain.
“Cats are predators, but they’re also small prey, and small prey animals all obey one behavioral rule: If you’re sick, you don’t act sick until you absolutely cannot hide it anymore,” explained Slack, a veterinary physician who has worked solely with felines since 1993. “The minute you act sick in the wild, you have a target on your back.”

No Dogs Allowed

Slack’s narrow field of study enabled her to break away from the canine-heavy focus of the veterinary world. She says dogs are the subjects of most veterinary science and then their results are applied to cats, even though the two could not be more physiologically different.

Dr. Fern Slack
conducts an exam on the floor to help her patient feel secure,
reducing stress. (photo by Robin Hanna Fox)

“Even in vet school, most lectures are all about dogs, and then at the end you get a little bit about cats,” Slack said, “and most of the time, that information is questionable at best.”

Slack’s sister-in-law, Barbara Slack-Bowden, cofounded Uniquely Cats and is the hospital administrator. She points out how difficult it can be to perform a good exam and accurately assess a cat’s health in most veterinary clinics where the cats are stressed by the other animals present.

“It’s much worse if they can see, hear and smell dogs around them,” she said.

She also calls attention to the unrealistic expectation that veterinarians must know everything about cats, dogs, pigs, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, snakes and all of these different animals, whereas human doctors spend years studying just one species.

Slack and Slack-Bowden knew they could provide better care for felines in a clinic that treated cats and only cats.

They partnered with Animal Arts to design the floorplan of their feline-exclusive clinic, and hired Scott Rodwin’s team at Rodwin Architecture and Skycastle Construction to bring their vision to life.

“It was exciting to meet the rigorous technical challenges while giving the space a nonclinical feel,” Rodwin said. “Doctor Slack wanted all her clients (human and feline) to feel as comfortable as if they were at home.” He incorporated stone, raw wood and lots of natural light in the design to give it a warm Colorado feel.

Don’t Eat Your Vegetables

As beautiful as her clinic is, Slack’s goal is to keep cats in their own homes as much as possible by maintaining their health with proper nutrition. She says everything they do starts with food, and it really boils down to the fact that cats are obligate carnivores.
“The only thing they eat in the wild is meat—mice, snakes, birds, worms, etcetera—not plants,” Slack explained. “Plant material is very harmful to cats, and nearly every commercial cat food in the world is made mostly or entirely out of plant material. When we switch cats to healthy all-meat diets, 90 percent of what is wrong with them goes away.”

If you think your cat doesn’t have that option because they’re on a special diet for heart or liver problems, think again. Slack says the prescription diets that many veterinary clinics sell are not nutritionally sound for feline health, yet the vets are trained to prescribe them. Instead, Slack recommends cat owners feed a biologically appropriate diet, which can be purchased or made at home. If time constraints require the purchase of prepared food, Slack vouches for Balanced Blends—a Boulder-based company that makes an evolutionarily appropriate diet.

Conscious Cat Owners

Even with a great diet, everybody gets sick sometimes, and a cat’s best defense is an informed owner. Slack says cat behaviors to watch out for include general lethargy, throwing up frequently and urinating outside of the litter box. In an effort to educate cat owners on everything from vaccines to dental health, she posts informative articles on the Uniquely Cats website. After 25 years of studying nothing but cats, she knows what she’s talking about.

Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center
1915 28th St. , Boulder, Colo. 80301
Mon., Wed. and Fri.
7:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
7:30 a.m.– 6:30 p.m.
Thurs. and Sat.
8–11 a.m.

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Little Bird Is Perched to Please

Niwot’s menagerie of hand-selected art and gifts will have you singing its praises

by Amanda McCracken
photos by Ladd Forde Photography

Members of the Canadian folk band, The Be Good Tanyas, were right when they penned the lyric, “The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs.” A menagerie on Niwot’s historic main drag, Little Bird is half gallery, half boutique and 100 percent harmonious. Imagine a cross between a Sundance catalog and a fairy garden. That’s Little Bird. And you’re sure to find something you love for yourself or a friend: home décor, jewelry, clothing, stationery, accessories and more.

Little Bird Boutique and Gallery owners, Liz Gould and Bruce Rabeler. (photo by Ladd Forde Photography)

The company’s visionary, Liz Gould, says she and her husband, Bruce Rabeler, find unique pieces by going directly to small artists rather than typical trade shows. Their pieces range from delicate calla lily-inspired earrings handpicked on their trip to Mallorca, Spain, to leather bracelets adorned with semiprecious stones they discovered on a trip to San Francisco. The store’s old brick walls are warmed with decorative angel wings and mosaic-like watercolor paintings of animals by Albuquerque artist Travis Bruce Black. A stand of locally made handbags by Maruca Design perches in the adjacent room.

The colorful Johnny Was clothing collection combined with the Liberty boots provide a boho-meets-cowgirl style that matches the Patty Griffin and Indigo Girls streaming from the speakers. In the “lotion potion” back room, you’ll find pampering gifts such as lavender-filled sachets, locally hand-milled soaps and whimsical greeting cards from German artist Catrin Welz-Stein.

Gould makes jewelry designed with Southwest colors like turquoise and deep reds. Little birds adorn metal pieces made by her husband, who specializes in photographing macro-botanicals. For five years before opening the shop, the couple traveled the local mountain art show circuit selling their work. It was at these shows, Gould says, where they met a variety of great artists. The spark for Little Bird was lit: “We began wondering if we could start our own store featuring these artists.”

Little Bird’s old brick walls frame the colorful clothing collections. (photo by Ladd Forde Photography)

Seven years ago, Little Bird began in one room and has now expanded to four in its home on Second Avenue in Niwot. Being out in Niwot, away from the commercial hub of Pearl Street, doesn’t discourage customers from finding them or returning to shop.

“We have loyal out-of-towners who make their annual trip to Little Bird,” said Gould. They might be coming to find the newest lotion bar made by Fort Collins-based company Queen of the Meadow. Or maybe they’ve come to add a new piece of art to their garden, like wooden wind chimes designed by Colorado Artist Cynthia White with wood she finds river kayaking. No matter how far they travel, customers are sure to be delighted by the flock of treasures for feathering their nests.

Little Bird
112 Second Ave., Niwot, Colo. 80544
Open Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

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e-bike of COLORADO aims to change the way we commute and recreate

Pick Your Pedal Power

By Amanda McCracken

With just over a year in business, electric bicycle retailer e-bike of COLORADO is helping Boulder County residents reconsider their relationship with play, exercise and the outdoors. Customers unfamiliar with the electric bike concept often enter the Louisville shop a bit skeptical, but upon a test ride, even endurance athletes may appreciate a little “pedal assistance” rather than grimacing up the steep hills along Coal Creek Trail.
“E-bikes aren’t replacing bikes,” manager Pete Castiglione said. “They’re replacing couches and cars.”

Electric bikes are neither scooters nor motorcycles. They are hybrid bicycles propelled by both the power you provide in your legs and the motor. Critics of e-bikes say riders are cheating.

“But how are you getting to work?” asked owner Randy Caranci. “By car? Now that’s cheating.”

The Nuts and Bolts

E-bikes are broken down into three classes. Classes one and two are governed at 20 mph, but class two has the option of using a throttle button that propels the rider forward without pedaling. Class three e-bikes are governed at 28 mph and are intended to be ridden only on the roads.

Left to right: James McIntyre, Pete Castiglione and Randy Caranci. (photo courtesy e-bike of colorado)

e-bike of COLORADO carries all types of bikes, including tricycles, hybrids, cruisers, fat tire, foldable, mountain and road bikes, from $999 to $8,999. Not sure which might be right for you? Test one out: e-bike of COLORADO offers Thursday evening (seasonal) and Sunday morning group rides. Bring your own bike or borrow one for free. And, of course, test rides are always free.
The first U.S. patent on an e-bike was in the 1890s, but only in recent years has technology created much lighter, longer-lasting batteries. On average, an e-bike can go 50 miles before it needs to be recharged, and most e-bikes are fully charged within four hours.

Many customers worry the weight of the battery will make the bike too heavy. Caranci says that once customers try it out, they realize the advantages of powerful motor assistance outweigh the few extra pounds of battery weight. He often recommends customers ride the e-bike every day for about three weeks to help the battery last longer. This breaking-in period isn’t to benefit the battery—it’s for the rider! The more fit the rider, the longer the battery will last.

Not Just for Commuting

E-bikes make it possible to spend time outdoors with loved ones of varying ages and abilities. Customers are buying or renting e-bikes in order to keep up with friends and family. For instance, visitors from a lower elevation may want to spend the day outside exploring town. Locals could get in a workout on a traditional bike while the guests ride alongside on a rented e-bike with the pedal-assist setting at its highest level.

One e-bike category exploding in sales is e-mountain bikes, says James McIntyre, the store’s e-bike mechanist. Downhill mountain bikers are beginning to realize they can get more laps in downhill with the pedal assistance e-bikes offer. They don’t have to rely on a chairlift or wear themselves out early on in their workout climbing back up the steep hill.
“It puts the fun back into cycling,” said McIntyre, who bought his sister an e-bike.

After five knee surgeries, biking just didn’t seem like an option for her. With an e-bike, McIntyre says, she’s actually getting out and riding. If she gets to a hill she doesn’t think her knee will allow her to climb, she simply hits the throttle button and the e-bike accelerates without her needing to pedal.

Caranci is excited by the potential to reach different people in the community with e-bikes. He spoke of one customer who has Parkinson’s disease: “When he returned from his test ride, he was so excited. In fact, he was verbally more articulate.” Another customer who is too blind to pass a driving test still sees well enough to ride his e-bike to work.

Are you curious about e-bikes but not sure you want to invest in the purchase? Follow the shop’s tagline, and “Just try it!”

e-bike of COLORADO
544 Front St.
Louisville, CO 80027
Open daily 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

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Theater Review: Hooded Or Being Black For Dummies

by Beki Pineda

HOODED OR BEING BLACK FOR DUMMIES – Written by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm; Directed by Betty Hart.  Produced by the Aurora Fox Arts Center (9900 East Colfax, Aurora) through February 10.  Tickets available at 303-739-1970 or

Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm is making a mark for himself in the theatre world for dealing with the issue of racism in America with confrontational humor.  To explain:  that’s basically jokes or situations or dialogue that makes white folks go “Can they really say that?” while laughing.  He professes that he calls upon his own experiences as a Black man moving through today’s cultural environment with caution and putting his anger into his work.  He went to the same high school as Michael Brown, the Black student killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  That really put a face on the violence for him and informed several of his plays since then (BR’ER COTTON, BLACK LADY AUTHORITY, and P.Y.G. OR THE MISEDUMACATION OF DORIAN BELL). HOODED, which opened in Washington, D.C. only two years ago, is having its Denver premiere at the Fox this month.

Two boys meet in a holding cell after one was picked up for trespassing in a cemetery (after his two White companions ran off) and the other for unspecified “loitering.”  Marquis (AJ Voliton) is an adopted son with a White family while Tru (Randy Chalmers) is a street smart loner from Baltimore.  Marquis’ mother (Jacqueline Garcia) comes to retrieve him and ends up taking Tru into her custody as well.  She is so happy that her son has a new “cultural” friend and insists he stay with them.  Both boys recognize the “Blind Side” connection but agree that Sandra Bullock is way hotter than Marquis’ Mom.  Tru decides that his new friend has lost his blackness and devises a manual for achieving a new level of awareness of how to maneuver in a White world as a Black man.

This is a long one act (100 minutes) so there is no Act I and II, but once the Being Black for Dummies book arrives, the whole situation begins to take a darker turn (no pun intended).  An interracial romance blossoms fueled by curiosity and hormones; one of Marquis’ impressionable classmates finds the manual and decides that he too can become Black which does not have the humorous outcome you hope for.  While friendship blossoms, the problems remain the same and soon we find the boys sharing yet another holding cell.

A curtain speech is given by a Black police officer (Laurence Curry) who explains that he doesn’t care if we leave our phones on and take pictures.  He warns that there are laugh lights that flash when it’s OK to laugh at a joke we may think goes over the line.  If we laugh any other time, then we are racist.  The lights, enhanced with a laugh track, flash quite a bit at the beginning of the show, especially on unfunny lines but gradually flash less and less as the humor dies and reality sets in.

This cast does an amazing job with the script.  Randy Chalmers as the wise beyond his years Tru warms the stage with his personality.  Knowing Randy to be a soft spoken gentleman, it was fun to see him cut loose and let his “bad” self out.  Relative newcomer AJ Voliton has a nerdy charm that fits his character well.  He is impatient, disbelieving, needy and sweet in great measures as we watch his development.  He never quite makes it all the way to acceptable “Black,” but he also never succumbs to the pull of becoming White either.  Laurence Curry’s  Black policeman doesn’t like kids of either color.  In addition to playing the smooth talking lawyer Mom, Jacqueline Garcia also becomes one of the female students at Achievement Academy, Marquis’ preppy school.  Adeline Mann and Tara Kelso are Clementine and Meadow, the tempting White girls while Drew Hirschboeck and John Hauser are the “friends” who abandon and ridicule Marquis behind his back.

There is a back story involving the appearances of Dionysus and Apollo that added nothing new and interesting to the story for me.  I could have done without those scenes and focused more on the attempts by Hunter, the White student who tries to assimilate a new personality.  A 1961 movie, BLACK LIKE ME, followed a Southern white man who passed as a Black to study how the races were treated differently.  It would have been interesting to see how Hunter’s efforts to become Black with a White face changed him.

I applaud Chisholm’s efforts to shine a light on the current state of racism in America by using the platform available to him.  Watching the SAG awards later in the evening, I could also not help applauding Alan Alda’s words as he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers.  He stated, “When we get a chance to act, it’s our job, at least in part, to get inside a character’s head and to search for a way to see the life from that person’s point of view, another person’s vision of the world. And then to let an audience experience that. It may never be more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes than when the culture is divided so sharply. Actors can help, at least a little, just by doing what we do … So my wish for all of us is: Let’s stay playful, let’s have fun and let’s keep searching. It can’t solve everything, but it wouldn’t hurt.”  Chisholm’s play does just that – let’s us look inside another person’s vision of the world in a playful way in an attempt to make things better.

A WOW factor of 9!!

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Theater Review: Last Night And The Night Before

by Beki Pineda

LAST NIGHT AND THE NIGHT BEFORE – Written by Donnetta Lavinia Grays; Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. Produced by Denver Center Theatre Company (presented in the Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis, Denver) through February 24. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or

What starts as a seemingly, too familiar domestic drama – a woman fleeing from her home town with her daughter to her sister’s door – quickly turns into a deeper, darker mystery. What exactly is she running away from? Her husband seems to be a loving father, so why leave him? Is she running to something or from something? Why is her sister’s partner so hesitant to accept them into their home? What is her true intent? All of these questions are still rolling around at intermission.

Couched in the soft patois of Southern dialect, the story unfolds slowly but never quite gets around to answering the “why?” of what rolls out. Drugs are involved, masculine pride gets bruised, unresolved police issues arise with part of the story told in memory and part happening in real time. Everyone’s primary concern is for the well-being of the innocent (or is she?) little girl.

Enacted by a powerful troupe of actors all making their debut at the Denver Center, this feels like a show that could be picked up and traveled intact to another city for another production. Zaria Kelley as Sam brings a maturity and level of experience beyond her apparent years to her role, having appeared in movies, videos, and hosting a YouTube series for kids. Bianca Laverne Jones and Erin Cherry are the loving partners who take in the fleeing family, even though it causes them personal strife. The loving but troubled mother with larcenous intent is played by Keona Welch. As the lone male in the cast, Sharod Choyce grounds the story by proving to be a loving and protective father.

“Not last night but the night before, 24 robbers came to my door.

They stole my watch and they stole my ring and then they all began to sing.”

This is one version of the popular kids hand clapping or jump roping game practiced by young girls which has been passed on to them by their big sisters and mothers. While you can beat out the patterns with one set of hands or one jump rope, they are more fun when done with a partner or a couple of other people turning the rope and chanting with you. Sam, the little girl at the heart of this play, is temporarily relegated to chanting on her own. But because of her resilience, her ability to stand up for herself, and the fact that she is surrounded by individuals who love her in different ways, the audience is left with the sure knowledge that she will survive to jump rope another day.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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Theater Review: Disenchanted

by Beki Pineda

DISENCHANTED – Book, Music and Lyrics by Dennis Giacino; Directed by Alicia K. Meyers. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe) through March 31. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or

For what started out as a single song about the true story of Pocahontas as opposed to the Disney “glammed up” version written by an ex-history teacher and ex-Magic Kingdom employee, this little revue turned out OK. More songs and skits were written to puncture the Princess complex and suddenly it was a show. First done in Orlando and in various

Fringe Festivals before moving to off-Broadway, it soon grew a pair of legs – like Ariel – and developed a strong life of its own. Now being done all over the country for extended runs, Mr. Giacino’s little skit has done well for him and for the theatres where it has played. Here in Boulder for the second time, the Princesses have taken over the stage again.

Not your ordinary Princesses either!! Good ol’ Uncle Walt never dreamed of the frustration he caused his perfect Princesses by not treating them as whole women. The function of a Princess in Walt’s world is to wait for her Prince to come along and “save” her. Not these ladies!! Sleeping Beauty (Annie Dwyer) complains that if she hears one more happily ever after, she’ll go insane. Belle (Alicia Meyers ordinarily, but Sky Cash stepped in for an ailing Alicia the night reviewed) wonders why she is the only Princess who has to pick up her boyfriend’s poop. Mulan (Marijune Scott) knows that everyone thinks she’s a lesbian because she’s the only Princess who didn’t get the guy. Cinderella (Tracy Warren) is a bit of a blonde airhead.

They are joined in their complaints by Jessica Hindsley as Snow White, the most sensible and down to earth of all the Princesses, and Anna High as the Princess Who Kissed the Frog. They rejoice in their newly claimed independence with songs that address the emphasis put on their “Big Tits” by the people who drew them and their inability to earn “Not One Red Cent” on the promotional stuff sold with their image. And they all confess that “All I Wanna Do is Eat!”

One “lucky” guy in the audience gets the full flirt treatment from the incredible Annie Dwyer who delights in adding an improv complement to nearly every show she’s in. The house band lead by Neal Dunfee supports the ladies in their music. A very special guest artist joins the ladies on stage as Rapunzel. Not only does she have long hair, but she needs a shave as well. My only criticism of the whole production is the unfortunate gown created for dear Anna High. Anyone who has to kiss a frog deserves a prettier dress to do it in.

But this is a delightful evening of fun for adults. You will happily laugh at this different take on the movies you’ve watched with  your kids. However, leave them at home for this evening of risqué entertainment.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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Theater Review: Nunsense

by Beki Pineda

NUNSENSE – Written by Dan Goggin; Directed by Pat Payne. Produced by Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (4747 Marketplace, Johnstown) through March 3. Tickets available at or 970-744-3747.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen this silly show. I think the last one was at the Country Dinner Playhouse – that’s how long ago that was! So it was refreshing and fun to revisit Mount St. Helen’s convent and the Little Sisters of Hoboken. For those of you who have never seen any of the long string of productions in the NUNSENSE franchise, they all revolve around the nuns need to raise money to bury their poor dead sisters of God who ate tainted food prepared by their convent chef, Sister Julia, Child of God. They have put together this little show as a fundraiser for funeral money. They proceed to sing original songs, dance in a kick line, tell silly jokes (“How do you make holy water?”), do ballet (one nun is a ballerina for God) and bicker among themselves.

Each nun is given a distinct personality. Sister Robert Anne (Sarah Grover) is a street-smart sister from Brooklyn who not only drives the convent car, she can strip it down faster than any guy on the street. But all she wants is “To Be a Star.” Sister Mary Amnesia (Lisa Kay Cartaer) got bonked on the head months ago by a falling crucifix and hasn’t been the same since. She loses her train of thought, is easily distracted, talks to a puppet, and just wants to sing country music. One very funny bit involving her happens during a cooking segment during which the nuns are trying to sell Sister Julia, Child of God’s cookbook. They try to distract Sister Mary Amnesia by telling her that an angel came by, picked up something they were trying to dispose of, and flew away with it. The rest of the scene she kept looking offstage and in the rafters for the angel; her timing in this little gem of a bit is impeccable. Sister Mary Leo (Abbie Hanawalt) is the ballerina complete with toe shoes under her habit and a tutu over it. Sister Mary Hubert (Heather McClain) is the Mistress of Novices and the Mother Superior’s right hand nun.

This particular roost is ruled by the Mother Superior(Samantha Jo Staggs). Not only does she deliver the most sarcastic one-liners directed at the other nuns, she is also the butt of jokes the other nuns deliver about her.  here is a loving but sarcastic camaraderie between this potent ensemble; no one is safe from jibes against their character and idiosyncracies. Sammy’s big booming voice rocks the room on more than one occasion. In the anachronistic ending to Act I, one of the nuns discovers some Rush in the girls locker room.  For those of you who don’t remember Rush from the 70’s, it was a kind of liquid aphrodisiac. The aroma was supposed to do amazing things to your libido and make your inhibitions relax. Well, it gets the MS higher than a kite and Sammy just runs with a freewheeling monologue complete with physical reactions, movie references, crawling around on the stage, and falling off the bar stools that are part of the set while calling “Free Willie!!” Her physicality will remind you of a combination of Carol Burnett and Melissa McCarthy. For that bit alone, she deserves a Henry award.

Luckily the playwrights have made it clear that this 1985 script can and should be adjusted to include more modern cultural references in future productions. So director Pat Payne with the help of his five nuns have developed a whole new set of gags with mention made of Star Wars movies, Lady Gaga, the Titanic movie, and more one-liners than you can remember but that bring tiny jolts of happiness as they are delivered.  tephen Bertles delivers on the choreography that makes full use of the nun’s habits and veils. The orchestra led by Phil Forman provides live music for the afternoon or evening’s performance.

My guest and I enjoyed the Chicken Parmesan and Lasagna dinners (although ask for a center selection from the lasagna – I kept biting into those crusty pasta bits that collect on the edges when you bake lasagna). The blueberry cobbler was delicious and the grape sorbet was like a tasty frozen grape soda. Also a clue for future ticket purchasers: try to get a seat no further back than Row D; otherwise you’re too far back to see the faces of the actors.  Candlelight delivers on another fine family theatre experience.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

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Theater Review: The Pinter Plays

by Beki Pineda

THE PINTER PLAYS – Written by Harold Pinter: Directed by Ed Baierlein and Stephen R. Kramer.  Produced by Germinal Stage (presented at the Hand Theatre in Lowry, 7653 East 1st Place, Denver) through February 2.  Tickets available at 303-455-7108 or

Germinal Stage has been around for nearly 46 years and has just now found a new home on the East side after performing downtown, in North Denver and Westminster.  But founder Ed Baierlein has managed to keep his company of players loyal and together.  In this new production at the Hand Theater, out of the seven actors in these two one-acts, five are returning from previous productions.  It is satisfying to welcome Germinal to the Hand Theater family.

THE COLLECTION is a mood piece involving the relationship between two couples.  Stella (Libby Arnold), the wife of James (Stephen Kramer), intimates that she has had a love affair with another man.  James seeks out who he believes the “other” man to be and confronts him.  He disrupts the relationship between this man Harry  (Gary Leigh Webster) and his partner Bill (Andrew Horsford).  Doubt surfaces with no one really seeming to know or be telling the truth.  Could the wife have made up the whole scenario?  If so, why?  In typical Pinter fashion, you are left to draw your own conclusions.

THE ROOM takes place in a nondescript generic room that is praised by Rose (Michelle Moore) who lives there with Bert (Marc Moran), a sullen van driver.  Rose seems to be trying to talk them both into an appreciation of this “cozy” spot.  But as soon as Bert leaves, a parade of characters arrive to dispel her good mood.  Mr. Kidd (Clint Heyn), the landlord; another couple – Mr. and Mrs. Sands (Andrew Horsford and Libby Arnold) – seem to be checking out the room with the intent to move in, and finally Riley (Stephen Kramer), a blind man from the basement who also seems to be preparing to move in.  Rose’s protests are ignored and the tension builds.  An air of discontent and menace pervades “the room” and again, you are left to decide whether this is specific to the play or to Pinter’s world in general.

Michelle Moore is unrecognizable compared to her last role in Vintage’s production of BOSTON MARRIAGE.  She morphed from stylish turn-of-the-century matron to dumpy 60’s English housefrau.  The set consisted of furniture from three different social classes with two rather nice rooms created for THE COLLECTION and “the” gloomy room for the second play.  It takes a special kind of play-goer to appreciate the nuance and subtlety of Pinter, but those who do like these quiet mood pieces will enjoy this production.  I can’t wait to see what they will do with Noel Coward’s HAY FEVER which is their next show opening May 10.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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Theater Review: Casa Valentina

by Beki Pineda

CASA VALENTINA – Written by Harvey Fierstein; Directed by Nick Sugar. Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main Street, Littleton) through February 3. Tickets available at or 303-794-2787.

Closets still exist, as the specialized community that gathers weekends at Chevalier d’Eon, a haven for men who like to express “the girl within” by dressing as women on weekends. It was named after a French man who was incorrectly identified as a woman most of his life. As the “girls” arrive and don their gay apparel, the stress goes out of their bodies and their faces relax. Each are aware of the gift of being able to exercise their feminine selves in this safe haven given to them by owners George and Rita. The guests on the weekend we visit run the gauntlet from old hands to a newbie there for the first time. (Fun fact:  the original Broadway production of CASA VALENTINA featured Gabriel Ebert, a graduate of the Denver School of the Arts, as Jonathan, the new kid.)

This particular weekend, however, also includes a special guest. Charlotte is an organizer who is there to talk all of the guests into signing onto the proposal of making their rather secret sorority into a public non-profit recognized by the government (supposedly for tax and fundraising benefits). But this means public exposure, a prospect greeted with suspicion by these mostly married men who have carefully negotiated these girl’s weekends away with spouses and families. Exposure to a wider circle of work colleagues and home communities could bring their precariously constructed house of cards tumbling down. In addition, Charlotte feels strongly that they must disavow themselves as having anything in common with the gay community. As far as anyone knows, these are all steadfast heterosexual men who just like to dress up. She believes that it is homosexual behavior that the public at large abhors and that, once cross-dressers were publicly identified as normal guys living and working next door to you, they would be more easily accepted. Sorry, Charlotte, naïve and self-deluded.

In one of the most powerful speeches in the performance, Terry (Bob Wells), one of the experienced visitors, strongly disagrees with Charlotte’s assessment and expresses approval for the gay community that has always supported her. She flatly states that she will not sign any pledge that could harm her gay friends either emotionally or politically. Stand up and cheer!! But Charlotte has another bomb in her little arsenal and tried to blackmail Amy who, in real life, is a Judge and vulnerable to exposure. Somehow she has gotten copies of some incriminating photographs which leads to a climatic showdown and reveals Charlotte for being a snake in the grass.

Director Sugar has pulled together a cast of some of the top male actors in town, six of which are making their Town Hall debuts. I know you’ll find this hard to believe but, while they are believable as women, they are certainly not “pretty women.” Phil Luna as George the owner and Valentina, the “hostess,” is the prettiest, bringing Anita in WEST SIDE STORY to mind with his dark curly wig and expressive eyes. The old-timers were Mark Collins as Amy/The Judge; Bill Kahn as Bessie in a sassy, confident portrayal; Tim Howard as the down to earth Gloria; and Bob Wells as the strong-minded Terry. Newcomer to Denver Archie Archuleta also plays the newcomer to the Casa as Miranda/Jonathan. Sam Gilstrap takes on the role of the devious Charlotte. The women’s parts are played by Melissa McCarl as Rita, the unwavering wife, and Emily Tuckman as the Judge’s daughter who brings the “real” world into their carefully constructed fantasy land. It is especially telling that while the “girls” like to dress up and pretend to be women, they certainly do not take on the women’s roles in the outside world of cooking the meals or cleaning up after. The most these broads do is pour drinks and talk about how great it is to feel like a female. Get a broom, baby!!

While this play was written in 2014, it portrays the mentality and sexual politics of the 1960’s and illustrates with clarity how we have advanced as a society in some areas, but not in others. There’s a great deal left to think about at the conclusion of the play as it leaves unresolved what will happen next. One part of the stage reflects continuity while center stage, we have the beginning of a recognition of hopelessness.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

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Theater Review: Legally Blonde

by Beki Pineda

LEGALLY BLONDE – Book by Heather Hoch; Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin; Directed by Devyn Machado. Produced by Fearless Theatre (presented at The Bakery, 2132 Market, Denver) through January 19. Tickets available at

Fearless Theatre is indeed fearless. They are willing to take on new scripts – YOUNG VOLCANOS and the recent MOSQUE – as well as add a “fearless” tag to tried and true classics. They have done the standard edgy shows – SPRING AWAKENING, RENT, BENT – and even brought their brand to ROMEO AND JULIET and JULIUS CAESAR. But LEGALLY BLONDE at the Bakery??? Despite misgivings, they did it!! What Fearless proves in this current production is that if you have a powerful story to tell – even if it’s wrapped in pink fluff – you don’t need all the trappings.

The Bakery – for those of you who haven’t been there – is basically an unconverted warehouse that’s maybe 1500 square feet. Brick walls, concrete floors, folding chairs, tiny stage with no room for sets generally . . . . a basic hole in the wall space used since its inception by start up theatre groups. I’ve been attending shows there for nearly a year and have become more and more impressed by their creativity in solving the problems of a production in this space. In LEGALLY BLONDE, a single hair drier chair becomes a beauty salon; a group of four benches becomes both a classroom and a courtroom; a single table becomes a restaurant.

But the story gets told and the music gets sung. We are all as proud of Elle’s accomplishments as if she were surrounded by pretty furniture and matching costumes. It is the story that is at the heart of the production – actually, all of their productions. And that is their gift to their audiences. “We tell the story.”

Also at the heart of this particular story is Emma Maxfield as the irrepressible Elle. The part is written to present a seemingly shallow girl on a desperate journey to win back the man we all know is not worthy of her. But Elle is not shallow – she simply knows what she likes and is secure in the knowledge that her taste is impeccable. It may take her three tries but she gets into Harvard Law School, for Pete’s sake. It may take her a little while to recognize the much better man right in front of her, but she allows their friendship to grow before there’s any thought of romance . . . a much better way to go. She has a quick and facile mind that recognizes the truths in human character and has room for compassion and friendship. Plus we all learned to do the “bend and snap” although I’m afraid if I tried to bend these old bones, they really would snap. Emma brings a beautiful singing voice and soul to her portrayal of Elle. She has energy, concentration (something you need when your audience is three feet away) and brilliant acting skills which bring Elle to life without disguising Emma’s own sweet personality. You want to be friends with this girl.

She is supported by a cast of dozens – most notably Andrew Alber as her befuddled but cute fellow student, Emmett; Katie Burdette as Vivienne, her rival; Nick Marshall as Warner, her truly shallow boyfriend; and Brian Trampler as the devious Professor Callahan. Jordan Griffiths gave an energetic performance as the TV exercise guru and Hannah Whitehead excelled as her beauty salon friend who has a thing for UPS drivers. Roll in twelve other actors intent on telling the story and you’ve got a show!

Keep an eye on little Fearless Theatre. There are only about thirty seats in the space; it will soon be standing room only.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

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Theater Review: She Loves Me

by Beki Pineda

SHE LOVES ME – Book by Joe Masteroff; Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Directed by Bernie Cardell. Produced by Performance Now Theatre Company (Presented at Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood) through January 20. Tickets available at 303/987-7845 or

What a twisted road this musical has taken to finally arrive in Lakewood.  t started off as a play called PARFUMERIE in 1937 written by Miklos Laszlo set in Budapest in a perfume shop. Hollywood found it and made it into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in 1940 called THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER which was kept in Budapest but moved it to a leather goods shop. Next it was updated and given a musical treatment in 1949  – IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME – with Judy Garland and Van Johnson taking the leads. This version moved it from 1930’s Budapest to turn of the century America, turned the parfumerie into a music shop, and used completely different songs from those featured in the current musical. Next came the 1998 non-musical version – YOU’VE GOT MAIL – which brought it into the modern era with the anonymous lovers using email instead of letters with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan playing rival bookstore owners. The original musical opened on Broadway in 1963 to lukewarm reviews, but a 1993 revival brought new attention to the catchy story and fun music. It’s been playing all over the country and has enjoyed another Broadway version (2016) and international success since.

Performance Now always features a strong musical accompaniment for their production; this pit band led by Eric Weinstein features fine violin work by Lisa Kriss in a delightful overture which gets the evening started off on the right foot. Someone in the group was also playing something that sounded like an accordion, lending a polka air to the proceedings. The first three musical numbers are spritely and full of joy as the employees of Maraczek’s Parfumerie gather for work (“Good Morning, Good Day”), begin the day with “Sounds of Selling,” and celebrate Mr. Maraczek’s memories of “Days Gone By.” A young woman comes into the shop looking for work and convinces the owner to hire her – over the manager’s objections – because she manages to convince a customer to buy a music box by disguising it as a candy box that warns her “No More Candy” by playing a song. The stage is then set for a battle of wits between George, the manager and Amalia, the new salesgirl.

Both confide to fellow workers that they have a secret love that has grown up through letters exchanged anonymously. The plot thickens when they plan to meet “Tonight at Eight” and then are forced to put up Christmas decorations at work. Despite the hesitancy on both their parts, they do, of course, move slowly to the inevitable ending. A subplot involving a tumultuous relationship between two colleagues at work adds frivolity. A misunderstanding on the part of Maraczek adds drama. While all of the music moves the story forward and provides musical insight, only the title song managed to make it out of the score and into the charts of popular songs that get covered by other artists.

Sara Risner returns to the PNTC stage to bring delightful life to the spunky Amalia who fights for a position at the shop and then fights to keep it. She reveals her vulnerable side and her uncertainty to her friend Ilona and as she waits alone in the restaurant for her “Dear Friend” to show up and reveal himself. She is at her funniest in a scene with George when she is trying to get him to leave the restaurant so she can meet her “dear friend,” not knowing that they are one and the same. Ilona, another employee of the shop, is played by Chelsea Herold in a standout performance of a sexy show stopping role. She is the subject of a song (“Ilona”) sung by the other male employees of the shop and shows off killer dancing skills. The male counterparts are created by Josh Kwas as sweet, kinda goofy George Nowack, the manager of the shop, who becomes slightly devilish when he discovers who his dear friend is before she does. His joy as he falls head over heels is a delight to watch. He is supported by Cole LaFonte as the devious Steven Kodaly, a Romeo who is stringing Ilona along with his charm while he romances several others on the side. Craig Ross does a nice turnout performance as the Waiter at the restaurant where the lovers are supposed to meet. He is fighting a losing battle trying to maintain “A Romantic Atmosphere.” Doug Herman provides a handsome, dignified Mr. Marasczek whose mistake in judgement nearly provides a tragic side note.

Some musicals that have an important message to spread can get away without the trappings of huge set and colorful costumes. But musicals that are just for fun and are basically a rom-com with songs – you know we all love them!! – need to have a little more in the way of dressing and atmosphere. If there was a part of this production that disappointed. it was in the physical trappings. Rob Prytherch is a brilliant scenic designer; his sets for INTO THE WOODS and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST have been full of color and fun. This set, while it fulfilled the needs of the show, did not create the frivolous atmosphere or whimsy that would have lifted it to another level. Even the always reliable Cindy Franke costumes seemed to be too dark to be as lighthearted as the show. Sara’s hair dressing or wig constrained and made her look older than her years. The whole show just needed a big shot of charm. Yet despite that, it’s a delightful production enhanced by strong singing chops in all parts telling a cute story.

A WOW factor of 8!!

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Globally, plastic is a pollution nightmare. Locally, Eco-Cycle offers solutions and hope.

The Problem with Plastic

By Tom Brock

Plastic is cool. It can bend but be unbreakable. It can be almost weightless, yet tougher than tungsten. You can cover a sandwich, spaceship, house or football field with it—and make it any color you want to dazzle the eye. The one thing you can’t do is get rid of it.
Created in numerous forms since the late 1800s, a fully synthetic plastic wasn’t invented until 1907 when phenol was combined with formaldehyde to create Bakelite. Various offshoots of this stuff were used somewhat sparingly for decades, and it wasn’t until the early 1960s that plastic use really caught fire. Plastics were all the rage—you name it and plastic was most likely in it.

As the single-stream recycling moves through the line, speedy workers pull out anything that’s not paper on its first pass through the recycling center. After this step, the products go through several other sorting machines as well. (photo courtesy Eco-cycle)

The problem with plastics sort of slowly snuck up on the world. People began to realize that it didn’t really GO anywhere. It collected in landfills, clogged rivers, formed floating Texas-sized masses in oceans and dramatically ended up wrapped around whales or jammed up sea turtles’ nostrils. By the time people realized that there was an issue with plastic, it had already become a very serious problem.

It’s estimated that more than 8.3 billion tons of plastics have been synthesized since the 1950s, the equivalent of roughly a billion elephants. And the curve showing plastic production has rocketed up at an alarming rate in the last two decades.

Against this backdrop, Boulder Magazine wondered about the use and disposal of plastics in our community. We went to learn more from the experts at Eco-Cycle, who generously gave us their time to provide the latest info about the current issues and solutions relating to plastics, both locally and globally.

Harlin Savage, Eco-Cycle communications director, and Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle policy and research director, were interviewed by Tom Brock on Oct. 24, 2018, at the Eco-Cycle offices.

Boulder Magazine: Plastic has only been universally used for about 50 years, but we now seem to be acutely aware that we are inundated with it. What are the key issues, as you see them, related to plastic in the environment?

Kate Bailey: I think it’s important when we think about plastics to not just look at their use, but also their production. A lot of the impacts from plastics come from the use of fossil fuels. Plastics are made from natural gas and oil, so any of the negative environmental or health effects we associate with fossil fuels should be associated with plastics. So, to really understand the full impact plastics are having, we need to look at how they’re produced, then how they’re used and then how we throw most of them away and they end up as litter or in the ocean, or
not recycled.

Harlin Savage: At the other end of that, one thing to consider is that all the plastic that we’ve ever created still exists. Plastic is not truly biodegradable. It eventually breaks down in the ocean, or when it’s exposed to the elements, into smaller and smaller pieces, but it never goes away. So the fact that we are continuing to generate hundreds of millions of tons of plastic … that accumulates over time, and that’s why we have a very significant problem right now, so that’s something for people to keep in mind. That plastic item that you bought, it may morph, but it’s never going to go away. It’s never going to completely biodegrade.

BMAG: How much plastic waste is generated in Boulder County compared to other cities?
Kate: What we generate locally here in Boulder County is not really any different than what’s generated in other communities across the country, so we’re pretty standard. One thing that’s good to know is Colorado is one of the most wasteful states in the country. We generate a lot more trash than other states.

We generate on average, about 8 pounds of trash per person per day, and plastic is a part of that. Plastic is more about volume than weight. About 40 to 60 percent of our waste comes from businesses and the rest from households.

Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle policy and research director (left), and Harlin Savage, Eco-Cycle communications director (right), talk about the challenges we face in a world full of plastics and how we can make progress toward a circular economy as a solution. (photo Ari Moscone, Eco-Cycle)

BMAG: What does the plastic recycling process involve?
Kate: As operator of the Boulder County Recycling Center, Eco-Cycle and the county set the guidelines for what can be recycled. Every community in Boulder County
has single-stream recycling and can accept the same plastic bottles, plastic tubs, plastic jars that can be recycled locally, so everyone has access to those same services.

BMAG: How does recycling in Boulder County compare to other Colorado cities?
Kate: That’s a great question. We take for granted that we have curbside recycling, curbside composting. Most communities in the country do not. There are only about 200 communities in the country that have curbside compost, so that puts us in a pretty select few, and curbside recycling is widely available across the U.S., but in most communities, you have to ask for it and you have to pay more for it. For example, in some of Colorado’s biggest cities—Aurora, Colorado Springs, Lakewood—curbside recycling is not automatically provided like it is in Boulder. Residents have to pick up the phone, find a trash company, say, “I want recycling. I’m willing to pay a few dollars more,” and then they get it. Studies have found that just providing it automatically next to trash—you get more participation.

BMAG: How do you keep up with the huge volume of plastic waste?
Kate: I would say the volume of the material is not so much a challenge. The economics are the bigger challenge for us. One of the reasons recycling struggles in Colorado is because we have some of the cheapest landfills in the country. On the Front Range, on average, it costs $20 a ton to send your trash to the landfill. The national average is $50 a ton, so we are significantly cheaper than the national average. In Denmark and the Netherlands, for example, some of their landfill prices are over $200 a ton. Very little gets sent to a landfill at $200 a ton.
Harlin: There is a shift that needs to happen in terms of looking at these materials, not as waste, but as valuable resources. Colorado is one of the most wasteful states in the nation. We have a 12 percent recycling rate statewide, and that translates to, you know, we are burying valuable materials—glass, aluminum, cardboard—in landfills every year that are valued at upwards of $250 million, so we’re throwing money away, basically, by landfilling all of these materials.

BMAG: How are current market conditions impacting recycling economics?
Kate: For many of us at home, recycling is, you know, we put it in the bin and it goes away. We don’t see it. But the reason recycling works is because we’re able to collect those materials and sell them to a company that makes new products out of them. Having a buyer on the other side is fundamental, which is the reason why we take some things and don’t take other things. Recycling over the last 10 years or so has really become more global, so your materials might be going as far as China. What we would like to see is more local recycling markets. Coors is a great example: your glass gets recycled into glass bottles right down the road at Coors. And we have a new company coming in called ReWall that’s going to be recycling milk cartons and aseptic cartons, those shelf-stable soup cartons. Eco-Cycle has always tried to prioritize local markets, domestic markets first because we thought it was safer from a business perspective, and because environmentally, we thought it was the right thing to do.

BMAG: What types of plastics do you accept? Are some more valuable than others?
Kate: Eco-Cycle likes to talk about the shape of the material in terms of plastics recycling. We recycle plastic bottles, plastic tubs, plastic jars and plastic jugs, really focusing on those shapes. That’s not all plastics—we don’t take hoses, we don’t take kiddie pools, we don’t take Barbie dolls, and we get everything plastic thrown at us. Our biggest challenge, the biggest thing we do not want in your recycling bin is plastic bags. They get tangled in our equipment, we cannot recycle them if you give them to us in your recycle bin. If you bring them to the CHaRM (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials), if you bring them to a grocery store, they get recycled. We cannot take them through the single-stream process.

BMAG: So plastic grocery bags, clothing bags, baggies, soft plastics—not for you, right?
Kate: Yeah, plastic film. They’re actually very recyclable and very valuable. The challenge is they can’t get wet or dirty, so we really have to collect them through a different stream. We have to collect them in a different method, because once they get thrown in the truck with everything else, they’re gonna get dirty. I want to come back to your question: Are some plastics more valuable than others? We’re all familiar with seeing those numbers on the plastics, the one through sevens. We really try to steer people toward number one, number two and number five, as being the most valuable and also the safest for you to be using, in terms of your health impacts, environmental impacts. We’re starting to do some work in really educating people to avoid the number three, the number six and the number seven plastics. A lot of them can be replaced with a more recyclable plastic. The number six is polystyrene, which has a lot of health impacts in its production, so those three, six and seven are really the ones we’re focusing on. Let’s move these to something that’s more recyclable, safer for the environment. Let’s make a better product.

Stacked bales of compressed plastics at the Boulder County Recycling Center operated by Eco-Cycle. The plastics will be sold and recycled into new products. (photo courtesy Boulder County Recycling Center)

Moving Beyond Recycling

BMAG: There are two issues with the bad plastic. You can’t recycle it, and the manufacturing process and materials are more hazardous to health.
Harlin: Kate mentioned number six polystyrene. We have known for quite some time that this is a hazardous material. It’s made with benzene and styrene. It’s very hazardous to the workers producing it, and there are also concerns that food-grade containers, when you put a hot beverage or a hot food in that, that those chemicals can leach out. Eco-Cycle is working with Environment Colorado on a statewide ban of food-grade polystyrene containers. So, as an example, if people in Boulder are concerned, they can take action by going to our website and signing our pledge to “ban the foam.”

BMAG: Speaking of banning plastics, Colorado law says you can’t ban plastics. True?
Harlin: There is a thing called plastic preemption. In the mid-’90s, as part of a bill that dealt with encouraging state agencies to use more recyclable materials, two sentences were inserted that say that municipalities in Colorado may neither require nor prohibit the use of plastics. That’s the plastic preemption. So, technically, local communities cannot ban plastic products in Colorado. The state could, hence the polystyrene ban I was mentioning earlier. That would be a state-level action.
Kate: Meanwhile, across the country, we’re seeing a lot of communities banning disposable plastics. While they’re looking at a ban, they’re also looking at how do we create more opportunity for reuse? How can we reward people who reuse their bags? We’re seeing that a lot around the world as well. The EU has now said all plastics must be recyclable or compostable or reusable by 2030. So unfortunately, meanwhile our hands in Boulder are a little more tied, but there’s certainly a growing global consensus that this is a huge problem.

BMAG: Do you have any info on the success of Boulder’s plastic bag fee?
Kate: The city reported an almost 70 percent decrease in overall bag use once the fee went into place, so people were clearly not taking bags or bringing their own reusable bags, or some stores switched to cardboard boxes, so we definitely saw that that fee had an immediate and lasting impact on reducing bag use.

BMAG: What else is new for Eco-Cycle’s plastic recycling?
Kate: Guidelines have recently changed. We installed some new equipment at the BCRC, so we were able to expand some of the plastics we are now able to take. We can take five gallon plastic buckets, we can take yogurt tub lids, we can also take the berry, or the clamshell containers, we call them—like the large salad containers. The other question we get a lot from people is about bottle caps. If you have a plastic bottle, the plastic bottle cap should be screwed back on the bottle, and then that gets recycled. Please don’t give us just the cap itself. We’re not able to pull that out. Mixing materials is also a problem. If it’s a glass bottle with a plastic lid, we can’t take those together, but as long as it’s like your soda bottle—plastic bottle, plastic lid—empty it out, screw it back on, and we can recycle that.

BMAG: How have market conditions changed what you do with plastics that may or may not be attractive to the marketplace?
Kate: That’s a great question. It gets to the point that we’re looking at recycling as the solution to help with plastics, but we’re just responding to all these products that manufacturers are throwing at us. To be honest, of all the plastics ever made, only nine percent have ever been recycled, so we are not able to keep up with demand. We will never be able to recycle all plastics. That should not be the goal. The plastics that you give us in the bin, if they’re what we ask for, they get recycled, 100 percent. We need to be looking at the manufacturers who are making all these products. How are they helping in the recycling process? They need to be buying these products back. We need a place to be able to sell them.

BMAG: How does Eco-Cycle encourage a change in how plastics are made and used?
Harlin: Eco-Cycle is about building zero-waste communities, and when we talk about zero waste, we tend to focus on downstream solutions to our waste problem, and a downstream solution is recycling. But we really also need to be focusing on upstream—what are we creating in the first place? What are we allowing to be created? What kinds of materials are manufacturers using? We would argue for significantly greater producer responsibility in the U.S. so that when you’re manufacturing your product, you’re not only looking at does it work as intended? Is it attractive? We would like manufacturers to also be looking at can it be reused? How long does it last? Can it be recycled? Can it be composted?
Kate: We want to build toward a circular economy. We want materials to be kept in the loop. So we’re also … you know, plastics are a very hot topic right now, which is great, and so, it’s a chance for us to stand up as recyclers and say, “We’re trying to help this problem, but we’re not alone going to solve the problem. Recycling is not the single answer.” There’s a great report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that lays out a vision of where we can go, and it says 50 percent of plastics could be recycled. Another 30 percent could be redesigned, maybe eliminated, those are your straws, things that maybe we don’t need, and then 20 percent could maybe be reused. It lays out a good vision of this as a multiple-pronged approach. This is a great time for us to look at all the plastic problems. Plastic production is supposed to quadruple by 2050. Our oceans are filling up with plastic particles. They’re all over our beaches. Is this really the future we want? This is a great time to say, “Time out, let’s look at the big picture, and make macro-level changes to truly fix our plastic problems.”

BMAG: To Harlin’s point earlier, plastic doesn’t go anywhere. Do we know how bad it is for our health, or is it too early to tell?
Kate: I think it’s a little too early to tell, but there’s a lot of indication that it’s not good. One of the problems is not that we’re ingesting these plastic particles, but what we’re seeing in the ocean is that plastic attracts other chemicals that bond to it, and they’re called persistent pollutants, They’re some of your more dangerous, more toxic chemicals. They’re sort of clinging onto the plastic, and then they’re being introduced into the fish or into our bodies, so it’s not just the plastic particle itself, but all the chemicals that are coming with it.

BMAG: So it’s like when a little piece of Styrofoam attracts a bunch of other tiny pieces?
Kate: Exactly, we’re watching it move up the food chain in the ocean, and now we’re seeing people ingest it, and we’re still in the early stages of figuring out the research, but we always turn to the precautionary principle, which is basically, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If this looks like it’s going to be a problem, let’s start acting before we can be sure.
Harlin: And just to add to that, we’re talking a lot about the oceans, and that’s incredibly important, and it’s very visible and prominent right now, but you know, we have these small bits of plastic called microplastics here in Boulder County. You take a shirt that’s made out of polyester and run it through the washer which creates friction pulling plastic microfibers from the clothing. Those plastic fibers eventually end up in the wastewater treatment plant. I just wanted to make the point that we’re here in landlocked Boulder, and yes, we have a crisis with our oceans, but we’re also directly affected by these materials. These microplastics are here as well. It’s everywhere.

BMAG: What other issues should we be thinking about?
Harlin: Kate mentioned earlier that virtually all plastics are made from oil or natural gas, and the large corporate petrochemical companies, the ExxonMobils of the world, are increasingly getting larger and larger sales and a lot more profit off of what we’re calling unnecessary plastics. The plastic bag was not made because consumers were demanding it. It was made because ExxonMobil’s precursor figured out a way to take natural gas feedstocks and make plastic disposable bags out of them.

BMAG: Reports say the new money being invested in new plastics industries is greater than all that has been invested to date. True?
Harlin: The Center for International Environmental Law, based in Washington, D.C., has done a series of reports on plastic throughout the entire life cycle. One report examined the corporate leaders and found that they are planning to invest about $164 billion over the next five years or so, to build new or expand existing facilities, some 264 in total.
Once that infrastructure is in place, we may have locked in a certain amount of plastic production that we may not even want.

It’s so important to NEVER put your recyclables in plastic bags — just put them right in the bin. This machine , the corrugated cardboard screen, is used to sort larger cardboard pieces. When plastic bags are present, they ball up around the machine causing big problems. (photos courtesy Eco-cycle)

Solutions For The Future

BMAG: You mentioned the circular economy model. How does that pertain to plastics?
Kate: We’re seeing a lot of global focus on circular economy, whether it’s around plastics or whether it’s around climate. How do we use our resources more sustainably? How do we, in a circular economy, keep them moving through? Instead of cutting down trees to make new paper, how do we recycle that paper and use it over and over again? We’re seeing a lot of great initiatives come out of Europe. How do we incentivize companies to do this? How do we design products that we’re going to buy this back, and use again in manufacturing? A great example is the EU required car manufacturers to take their cars back for recycling. BMW took their car back and tried to dismantle it, and they were like, “Oh, there’s all these different types of plastics and they’re not labeled!” So they redesigned and they simplified, and there are now three types of plastics. They can dismantle the whole car in three hours because they connected the designer with the end process. We’re seeing a lot of movement in that direction. We’ve seen the U.S. Chamber of Commerce embrace circular economy as the future. I would say we’re seeing bright spots everywhere, which is really fun. We’re seeing a lot of ways that you as a consumer, you as a recycler, can reduce your plastic use, so we did a plastic-free challenge at Eco-Cycle, so you can find that on our website. So you learn about what you can do in your own life, and we also encourage people to look at, what’s that next step? What can you do at your work or your school or your church to replace some of these plastics? Then how can you go farther, and how do you talk to your local city council about a plastic bag fee, or helping ban Styrofoam at the state level. So each one of us has an opportunity to create change in our individual life and then ripple out throughout the community and kind of find out that role, and we’re seeing so much momentum globally around all of this. It’s super exciting.

The corrugated cardboard screen, is used to sort larger cardboard pieces. When plastic bags are present, they ball up around the machine causing big problems.(photos courtesy Eco-cycle)

BMAG: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is behind the circular economy model? Wow!
Kate: Yeah. Again, they’re looking at the business opportunity. They’re looking at the direction the world is going. The U.S. can be a leader or the U.S. can be a follower.

BMAG: To sum up, I’d like to ask you both what you think the most immediate threat is from plastic, and to follow up with how optimistic you are that solutions will be achieved.
Harlin: In what time frame?

BMAG: Pick your own.
Kate: I feel like we’ve covered the plastics problem, and I feel you have a good understanding of the fact that it’s global. I mean, it’s in our oceans, it’s in our health, it’s in our food, it’s affecting our climate, I mean, as National Geographic put it, this may be more important than climate change. It’s hard-pressed to say that there’s one thing that rises above the rest, yet I’m also optimistic in that we’re talking about this, and we’re having serious conversations at, maybe not in this country at the level we would like, but certainly in other countries at the highest level about how we’re going to move away from this. And it is a global problem, and it is going to need that sort of global action. I find it really encouraging how quickly it’s grabbed people’s attention. I think the discussion and the pace of the discussion gives me hope that we are going to take a really hard look at how we use plastics in general and start to change the direction.
Harlin: I would echo that this is a global problem where we have an opportunity to come together to solve it, and it’s not just an environmental problem. It’s a social-justice problem. I mean, you look at communities in Southeast Asia that are basically living in plastic landfills. It’s horrible, but good things are coming out of it. At the global level is this new group called Break Free from Plastics, and I would encourage people to check that out. We have communities in Southeast Asia, for example, that are taking the brunt of the impact. We have groups in the U.S. that are producing a lot of the natural gas and producing a lot of the materials to begin with that are unnecessary and wasteful and problematic and perhaps ending up on these beaches in Southeast Asia. There’s tremendous energy around this. There are thousands of organizations, not just individuals, that are participating in Break Free from Plastics, and Eco-Cycle is part of this effort in the U.S.

BMAG: So, the bad news is there’s a problem. The good news is there are solutions being worked on.
Kate: The bad news is it’s a big problem.
Harlin: It’s a big big big problem.

BMAG: Anything else you’d like to add?
Harlin: Human beings have tremendous ingenuity. If people, manufacturers and corporations get the right set of incentives in place, which we don’t have now, at least not in the U.S., we can unleash the creativity to solve this problem. We have everything from people trying to figure out how to use hemp to replace plastics, to researchers at CSU trying to figure out how to take these polymers, these long chains of molecules that make up the plastics and turn them back into their basic elements. In Boulder, for example, we’ve got people who have started companies so you don’t have to use your Ziploc plastic bag anymore, who are making substitutes that you can store your fruits, vegetables and leftovers in. There are cloths that are made with beeswax and other natural materials. That part is exciting, and it’s very disaggregated; they’re happening organically. People are very committed, and that gives me hope. I think that’s needed when we’re talking about making significant changes in our economies and moving towards a truly circular economy.


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Join Boulder Ballet on a wild ride to new horizons

Taking a Trip to Pluto and Beyond

Company dancer Ryland Early and a photo of Pluto captured by the production’s namesake, New Horizons space mission. (photos courtesy Boulder Ballet)

Wrenn Combs grew up in a household where astronauts and NASA were regular topics of conversation at the dinner table. Her father, Dr. Joseph Combs, was the director of Aerospace Medical Labs for Project Gemini. In this role he developed a heart-monitoring system that was used to measure the heart rate of the astronauts for both the Gemini and Apollo missions. Combs was a performing artist living amid the clash of art and science for as long as she can remember.

A recent conversation with a neighbor was the catalyst for her to play a part in the marriage of art and science in Boulder through her role as the executive director of Boulder Ballet.

Ryland Early lifts Phoebe Magna in practice. (photos courtesy Boulder Ballet)

A Concept Comes to Life

Because of her family history, when Combs noticed a NASA bumper sticker on her neighbor’s vehicle, she struck up a conversation. The neighbor, Cindy Conrad, works at the Southwest Research Institute under the direction of Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator responsible for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The two chatted about their space-related experiences. But it was one particular comment that launched an idea.

“Cindy told me how one of the biggest challenges of the New Horizons mission is choreographing the movements of the spacecraft to accommodate the seven mounted instruments,” Combs said. “The moment she said ‘choreograph’ the light bulb came on.”
The following week Combs presented a fresh idea to the artistic director, Ana Claire. Within the context of its outreach programs, the ballet blends arts and science on a small scale, but what if they could bring it to a greater audience?

And with this, a new concept for the Boulder Ballet winter show achieved liftoff.

Shooting for the Stars

Boulder Ballet’s “New Horizons” will make its debut in February 2019. This production is designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the many Boulder scientists and engineers of New Horizons space mission through dance. In 2015, New Horizons captured the first close-up images of Pluto, and on Jan. 1, 2019, will do a close flyby of a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.

The winter production is always contemporary or modern, and this year will be particularly intriguing with the second act of the production being entirely devoted to the celebration of this mission. The production as a whole will include images of Pluto captured by New Horizons, as well as costumes with integrated light sensors to truly harness the gravity of this accomplishment.

“It’s a testament to the strength and drive in humans to not be satisfied, to keep reaching and striving—the mystery and beauty of outer space,” said Claire. “It’s a beautiful blend of science reaching for Pluto, and humans—dancers—reaching and expanding.”
Ballet Newbie?

Matthew Helms practices a lift with Kelsey Byrne at a recent practice. (photos courtesy Boulder Ballet)

If you’ve never attended the ballet, “New Horizons” is a great way for you to throw your own axis a bit off tilt. It’s not your typical story ballet, like “The Nutcracker” or “Giselle” or “Swan Lake.” It’s a contemporary ballet, meaning the movements, the music, the costumes are very different from what the classics may bring to mind.

In the first act, one of the pieces will be choreographed by associate artistic director Lance Hardin and Amy Earnest. A costume with integrated light sensors will create a stunning light show set to the backdrop of original electronic music composed by Michael Shulze, teaching associate professor at the Lamont School of music at DU. Another piece, choreographed by company dancer and Boulder native Ryland Early, was an audience favorite at Boulder Ballet’s fall production, “FACES.”

Get Ready for LiftOff

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 @ 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 @ 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 @ 2 p.m.
Gordon Gamm Theater – The Dairy ARTS Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
For tickets, more information and to learn about the ballet’s outreach programs, visit

“This type of ballet is much more accessible to people, including younger audiences,” said Claire. “The storyline hints at ideas, and the audience is free to interpret in different ways.”

The second act will be an opportunity for the company dancers to interpret as well. In a classical ballet, the choreography is “set on the company,” meaning all of the movements are developed by the choreographer and the company dancers must perform them exactly—no room for deviation or interpretation. However, for “New Horizons,” the choreography will be “created on the company,” meaning the choreographers, Ana Claire and Claire Davison, a Boulder-trained dancer now with American Ballet Theatre in New York, will provide the framework for the movements and allow each dancer a latitude of interpretation for his or her part during the choreographic process.

“As artists, we are presenting ideas to you—friends, family, strangers—in a space where all interpretations are valued,” Hardin said. “This is a celebration of dance that is bigger than ourselves. We look forward to participating in your ideas.”

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Theater Review: Cirque Eloize – Hotel

by Beki Pineda

CIRQUE ELOIZE – HOTEL – Directed by Emmanuel Guillaume. Produced by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway at the Buell Theatre (14th and Curtis, Denver) through December 23. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or

No doubt inspired by the success of Cirque du Soleil (which began in 1984) and their desire to make the circus arts their life, the founders of Cirque Eloize gathered talented acrobats and musical performers into a new company in 1993 in Canada and began putting together energetic performances that combined their wide-ranging talents. Today they have at least three troupes crisscrossing the globe with one preparing a new show – Serge Fiori, Suel Ensemble – in their headquarters and school in Montreal which will launch after the first of the year. CIRKOPOLIS is in hiatus right now but comes back next year. SALOON which is an acrobatic take on the American Wild West featuring dance hall girls and cowboys is currently in France but makes a stop in Colorado next spring in Beaver Creek on March 26-27. So if you liked HOTEL, you will love SALOON.

HOTEL features a talented troupe of twelve circus arts performers who seem to be able to do everything. They toss each other in the air, they lift and balance each other, they dance together with hula hoops making the most intricate patterns imaginable, they swing from ropes and slide down poles – in short, they entertain. They perform as a group using the tools of the trade and then break into two’s or three’s to continue the routine. Each has the opportunity to perform their specialty  while also displaying their versatility. Dressed in similar costumes, they become interchangeable in the various routines but still maintain their specific character and individuality during transitional skits and interaction with the audience.

Tuedon Ariri displayed incredible grace and strength with her aerial ballet using straps. Philippe Dupuis juggled and bounced at least twelve balls at a time. Jeremy Vitupier had a funny routine about a guy trapped on a slack wire, not able to get up or down. Cory Marsh stunned with his dizzying work with a cyr wheel (which, by the way, was invented by the co-founder of Cirque Eloize). And Sabrina Halde provided a musical background to the whole evening. Using an Art Deco set reminiscent of a vintage hotel that combined two long slant boards with four short ones and a long counter from which various heads and props kept popping up, they utilized every square inch of the stage. It was such a visual energetic treat for the eyes with something kinetic going on all the time while various other characters just wandered casually through the scene.

What can I say? Is it theatre? Not really. Is it entertainment? Bet your bottom dollar. It was pure pleasure and family-friendly entertainment. A lot of their stops are only for one night – but we get them until Sunday. Get your tickets early as they will be sold out on Sunday.

A WOW factor of 8.5!

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Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill continues to learn new tricks

Chasing a bone


In 1997, without an inkling of knowledge about the restaurant industry, Steve Ross set out to chase that bone. He had recently relocated to Boulder after one visit to America’s Shangri-La in 1973, when he had long hair and bell-bottoms. What he found, nearly 25 years later, was an entirely different Boulder. What he didn’t find was a decent sports bar where people who didn’t call a dorm “home” could go to enjoy a decent meal and watch a game.

Ross learned lots of new tricks and opened the Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill with the motto: Every drink, every meal, every customer, every time. Thanks to the Lazy Dog’s early success in its first location at 28th and Iris, Ross took the leap to 1346 Pearl St. in 2004. He now has more than 60 employees working for him in a family-friendly atmosphere that serves a range of comfort food and healthy options—all from scratch. You can watch nearly any sporting event on dozens of televisions, ensuring you’ll never miss a game. If a game isn’t on one of the TVs, ask a server to change the channel and voilà, your favorite game appears.

Pulled pork sandwich with house-smoked pork shoulder, coleslaw and BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with choice of two sides: fries, coleslaw, fruit or mac and cheese, $11.

Beyond the food, Ross made clear that part of the ethos of the Lazy Dog is that customers and employees should always feel safe. They enforce a zero-tolerance policy on any kind of inappropriate behavior, which applies to both employees and customers. The restaurant culture is also about preventing drunk driving. The Lazy Dog has a policy of not over-serving anyone, and Ross was emphatic when he said, “We’ll pay for anyone’s Lyft or Uber home and back to pick up their car the next day, and we’ll do the same for our staff. There’s always a free ride to stay safe.”

While some are closing their doors on Pearl Street, Ross started expanding the menu in Erie and Boulder in April/May of 2018, reinvigorating the current space on Pearl, and opening a new location in Johnstown, Colo. (opening in 2019). “I couldn’t afford to be here (on Pearl) if I didn’t own the building—there is no way I’d be here,” he said. It also helps that the Lazy Dog serves more than 3,000 people every day on the weekends.

Stop in for a hearty jambalaya with shrimp, andouille sausage, pulled chicken, spicy Cajun tomato sauce, green onion and basmati rice, $16.

His vision is to make the Lazy Dog the best sports bar with a tavern-bistro-oriented menu. “I envision a family of four arriving, the parents and two little kids roaming freely and loudly, while Dad orders up moderately priced ribs, and Mom asks for a delectable ahi tuna.”

The new bistro menu includes bacon-wrapped dates, short rib nachos and blistered shishito and Peppadew peppers with ponzu. The locals love the pappardelle alla vodka with shrimp, but don’t worry, you can still get a big fat burger, fries and chicken wings.

Along with Ross’, Boulder’s long hair and bell-bottoms may be gone, but a hunger for great food is not. As long as this Lazy Dog continues to learn new tricks, he’ll have no trouble staying.

1346 Pearl St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
3100 Village Vista Drive, Erie, Colo. 80516

11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Open at 10 a.m.
Sat. and Sun. through football season

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Edwin Zoe’s belly drives the masterful adaptation of Pan-Asian cuisine at Chimera Pacific Rim Cuisine and Bar

Making Magic on the Mall


By definition, a chimera is magical. In folklore, it’s a single creature composed of the incongruous parts of different animals. In modern science, the term refers to a being with more than one set of DNA, and owner Edwin Zoe sees both meanings embodied in his new restaurant, Chimera Pacific Rim Cuisine and Bar. The elevated Pan-Asian concept has been a dream of his for more than 25 years.

“At Chimera, we’re not just doing one specialized, narrowly defined cuisine but instead making our own creature composed of parts of things I really love,” said the executive chef who successfully created Zoe Ma Ma street-food eatery in Boulder and later in Denver’s Union Station. “At the same time, (chimera) is very much how I feel about my experience and about food. I was born in Taiwan and grew up in the States, so I feel like I have two different sets of DNA in me.”

Created with such heartfelt and expert guidance, the resulting menu is just as magical as the name implies.

“When you come to Chimera, you’re going to have not only fantastic food, but you’re going to feel transported, like you’re not in Boulder anymore,” said manager Brodie McNeil. He credits this culinary transportation in part to the artful interior design, lit by paper lanterns and softened with ample use of natural wood, but mostly to Zoe’s commitment to authenticity.

“With all the preparation that goes into getting the layers of flavor we aim for, there’s a lot more prep involved and a lot more thought,” McNeil said.

photos by LUKAS CROSBY

Take the ultra-popular Chimera Ramen ($15), for example. The broth in the steaming bowl is the result of an eight-hour artisanal process made twice each day and includes three types of stock bones, as well as mushroom stems and other secrets. That broth clings, however, to the surface of the homemade noodles, which are springy and fresh and topped with pork belly, enoki mushrooms, corn and a creamy, soft egg. The depth and layers of flavor are best enjoyed with eyes closed in bliss as you relax, knowing you’re in the hands of a master.

But ramen is only one of Chimera’s many homemade treasures. The wide ribbon rice noodle in the Everybody Chow Fun ($14), the wraps of the Duck Dumpling ($5 for four) and the Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings ($7 for four, filled with crab and pork) are also prepared fresh daily. In fact, the dumplings are so painstakingly made that they’re the sole work of one member of the kitchen crew.

2014 10th St., Boulder, CO 80302.
Lunch daily 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner daily 4-10 p.m.
Happy hour daily 4-6 p.m.
For more information, visit

“When you’re cooking food, all your senses are going at the same time. You smell it, you hear it, you taste it,” said Colton Kear, Chimera’s chef de cuisine. “I really love how we create food that engages all of the senses.”

Chimera also hit the bullseye with the bao buns, that pillowy soft dim-sum superstar. While available with duck or pork, the Veggie Bao ($4) is the standout with its filling of cucumber, spicy togorashi and a thin round of delicately crunchy panko-crusted eggplant.

Such brilliant interactions of textures as well as flavors are found up and down the menu, including in the lip- and tongue-tingling Mala Wings ($7 for four), coated in Sichuan pepper.

“The food is really driven by my belly, by the things I love to eat within the Pacific Rim,” said Zoe, who even hopped over to Polynesia on the bar menu with his father’s original recipe for a Mai Tai. Regardless of where the menu roams, he says the most important thing is for the guest to have a great experience.

“That really is our compass,” Zoe said.

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Walnut Restaurant Group keeps it classic, keeps it fresh

Success in the restaurant industry requires flexibility


The idea was sparked, like many good ideas, over a plate of good food shared by friends. In this case, those friends were Joe and Peg Romano and chef Antonio Laudisio, and the idea was tapas—those Spanish “small bites” which, in 1993, had not yet hit the Boulder culinary scene. From those small bites came big successes, including the celebration of the 25th anniversary of that first venture, The Mediterranean Restaurant—known as The Med by its many devoted fans.

“The St Julien was a dirt parking lot when we started The Med, so when I look back to the beginning, it does seem like a long time,” said Peg Romano, co-owner of the Walnut Restaurant Group with her husband Joe. “My kids were so little and they’re in their 30s now.”

And while their dreams were once little, now the Romanos’ restaurants have grown into a Boulder powerhouse and include not only The Med—a partnership with Laudisio—but also Brasserie Ten Ten, founded in 2003, and Via Perla, opened in 2016. Boulder Magazine caught up with these restaurateurs, who’ve fed our community so well for a quarter-century, in search of the secrets to their staying power.

Put People First

“Our commitment is to the customer, to our guest, and we keep that in the front. Everything goes behind that,” said Peg. Creating a quality customer experience requires attention to every detail, from décor and service to food and marketing, and she says their employees have been a pillar in the group’s success.

In fact, commitment to staff was a driving factor of the Romanos’ expansion from one restaurant to multiples.

“Our goal really wasn’t to create a group, but we were successful with The Med and we wanted to find space for our employees to grow,” Peg explained. “It just kind of happened.”

Know Who You Are

All three of Walnut’s restaurants focus on classic European cuisines: The Med serves Mediterranean food from Spain, Italy and Greece; Brasserie Ten Ten is French; and Via Perla serves authentic Italian. That strict specialization was not a matter of chance.

“One reason we’ve stayed as busy as we have is, I think you need to stick with what you know you are,” says Peg, who’s known within the group for her attention to detail in keeping both their restaurant interiors and menus strictly authentic. “We work to stay within our genre. If you try to be everything to everybody, you get all mixed up and then you have a diner.”

Expect the Unexpected

Respect for tradition aside, success in the restaurant industry requires flexibility and the ability to roll with the punches. The group’s 25 years have proved that the unexpected is usually the norm. The Med, for instance, was supposed to be a small tapas restaurant but they instead found a large space. The solution was a widening of the cuisine and ordering an authentic Italian pizza oven. Pizza is now one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

“You can have it all planned and you finally get it all built and designed. You have great people and a creative chef,” said Peg. “Then something just changes someday that’s not in the plan. It’s inevitable.” And in the end, you need to enjoy the work, and the restaurant business is a lot of work.

“You’re either all in or you’re all out” she said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s rewarding.”

1002 Walnut St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.–9 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m., plus 9 p.m.–close

1011 Walnut St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.–9 p.m.
Brunch Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

901 Pearl St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m.


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