Beyond the Fourth Wall 

Our critics review local theater productions.

Colorado — Local playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb celebrates this world premiere in Impact Theatre's pizza-parlor basement. If the narrative about the worried family of a missing teen beauty queen often feels thin (especially the meandering conclusion), the dialogue contains enough belly laughs to carry the show, and newcomer Elkhanah Pulitzer's production delivers them handily. — S.H. (Through October 28 at La Val's Subterranean; or 510-464-446.)

Copenhagen — In the fall of 1941, a German physicist traveled to Nazi-occupied Denmark to consult with his old Jewish teacher and mentor. The details are fuzzy, yet the meeting might have changed the course of human history. The German was Werner Heisenberg, he of quantum physics' famous "Uncertainty Principle," and the older Dane was Niels Bohr, a giant of atomic physics. What did they talk about? German research into atomic energy? The likelihood Americans were building a bomb of their own? Nobody quite knows, and that's what encouraged British playwright Michael Frayn to write Copenhagen, a memory play that begins long after both men and Bohr's wife and secretary, Margarethe, are dead. The three characters hash and rehash why, exactly, Heisenberg came calling, and in the process both drop some science and examine the limits of guilt and complicity. Frayn is unstoppable, and he thinks big. Copenhagen is serious, talky, and static, just like Frayn's Benefactors, which Aurora audiences might remember from 2002. While things never break into the merriment of his Noises Off, they get interesting once the men have gotten over the stiffness of their initial reunion, and then especially in the second act. Copenhagen is a dense mystery that will resonate with viewers curious about science, history, and how we justify our actions. — L.D. (Through November 5 at the Town Hall Theatre of Lafayette; or 925-283-1557.)

Love Is a Dream House in Lorin — Shotgun commissioned Marcus Gardley to write a play based on interviews with residents of Berkeley's Lorin district. The story centers on a young mixed-race couple buying the rundown house of the title. Shotgun has long battled uneven acting, and while the current show is no exception, for some reason, it's not as obvious as you would expect in a large cast with so many untried performers. It's also one of the most diverse casts to grace an East Bay stage in a long time, appropriate for a show that's not only a play, but a celebration of and for the community. — L.D. (Through October 29 at the Ashby Stage; or 510-841-6500.)

Thoroughly Modern MIllie — Diablo Light Opera Company presents the East Bay premiere of this amusing but lightweight Tony-winning musical, based on the Julie Andrews flick about a small-town gal in New York City in 1922 determined to marry her boss out of mercenary pragmatism, with a white slave-trading ring for good measure. The new songs by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan are generally pleasant Jazz Age pastiche, but overly convoluted and largely forgotten by the time the reprise rolls around. — S.H. (Through November 4 at the Dean Lesher Center; or 925-943-7469.)

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