by Beki Pineda

COYOTE. BADGER. RATTLESNAKE. – Written and Directed by Buntport Theatre Company. Produced by Buntport Theatre Company (717 Lipan, Denver) through December 22. Tickets available at 720-946-1388 or buntport.com.

Just as the characters in the newest original Buntport offering were tasked with restoring a damaged diorama in a Natural History Museum, I am now tasked with explaining a Buntport show. Both are nearly impossible. The five members of the Buntport troop create each new piece from scratch based on a subject matter that interests them, an unusual news item, an unexplored or unexplained event in history, or some other random thing that catches their fancy. For Boulder readers who have yet to discover this creative and inspirational group, you have REALLY been missing out. They are as accomplished and honored as the Denver Center, Curious, BETC or CSF . . . but in an entirely different way. Their creativity and humor knows no bounds; they are not afraid to do or say anything to make their point (either for the joke or to express a philosophy); they use primarily the four acting members of the group (the fifth Samantha takes care of all the brilliant technical stuff) with only occasional guest artists. No two shows are even remotely alike. You never know what you’re going to get when you attend a new show. It could be fall-out-of-your-chair funny or it could have you leaving the theatre with a I-never-thought-of-it-that-way frown on your face. The one absolute given is that you can’t wait for the next pearl to drop out of their creative collective thought.

COYOTE. BADGER. RATTLESNAKE. is their newest offering and has only two weekends remaining. It is, as stated above, an involved conversation played out over several weeks between two museum artisans tasked with repairing and restoring a damaged diorama using those three animals. It depicts the coyote (fondly named Cecily) and the badger (Mitchell) working together to make a lunch out of the rattlesnake (Langston). It seems that somehow insects got into the diorama and destroyed part of Cecily’s face and snout. Carroll (Hannah Duggan) blames Glenn (Brian Colonna) for the damage; he had the audacity to bring a bagel into the museum. Not sure what that has to do with anything; neither does Glenn. Over the days that they are working together on putting the prairie grass sections into the new floor of the diorama, we get to  know them, their little idiosyncrasies, and their relationship as fellow workers through their comical discussions of the mundane. But who could have thought that someone could get so upset because the badger couldn’t possibly see the rattlesnake when it was misplaced. Or that one might get a little tipsy and come into the museum at night to talk to the badger.

During the blackouts between scenes, two other “real” workers – stagehands – bring on the new sections of the flooring in order to indicate the passage of time. At first working in silence, they place the flooring pieces and quickly move back out of sight before the “players” return for the next scene. But after about the third blackout, a can of pebbles gets accidentally kicked over and left on stage where it shouldn’t be. But there isn’t time to pick them up before Glenn and Carroll return. It all goes downhill from there for the stagehands. They too start bringing their backstage conversations on stage in view of the audience, blaming one another for the small mistakes that keep being made. Their conversations too become more philosophical and focus on the mundane in their lives – which makes the breaks between scenes longer and longer until they are almost caught on stage when the “players” return. Glenn and Carroll notice that things are moved around and knocked over, but can’t figure out how it keeps happening.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you, because the ending is so freaking funny, I don’t want to spoil it for you. This is one of the “laugh out loud” brand of their shows. The technical aspects of their shows are always impeccably appointed (also all done by the troop) and beautifully lit. Their sound design is clever and appropriate. Your attention is captured from the moment they start; no opportunity for a nap in any of these shows. You can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. The logical yet illogical playing out of their stories captivates from start to finish.

Just also wanted to let you know that occasionally they bring back a show for a second or third time “by popular demand” as the saying goes. In February, they are remounting “The Rembrandt Room” which was one of the most truly miraculous one woman shows ever seen. Erin Rollman plays a security guard before a huge painting in an art museum who takes it upon herself to explain the picture to a group of visitors, along with her personal relationship with the picture. Comedy Works cannot supply you with more laughs . . . or more thoughtful discourse. Look for it in February. You won’t be sorry.

A WOW factor of 9.5!!