Encore

Recent Tragic Events. In a Minneapolis apartment, a young woman, Waverly, is getting to know Andrew, a blind date introduced to her by a pretentious mutual acquaintance in New York. Andrew is attracted to Waverly but not sure he's ready to get involved. The dialogue is light and funny. Except that the date is September 12, 2001, and Waverly, is waiting to hear from her sister, Wendy -- a twin who's in some ways her other self. Wendy has been living in New York and hasn't called since the attack. Still, Waverly has her anxiety under control. She knows the phone lines are clogged. And she has no reason to believe that Wendy was anywhere near the World Trade Center at the time of the explosion. Andrew and Waverly are joined by a goofy neighbor, Ron, along with Ron's silent friend Nancy. Waverly's great-aunt, Joyce Carol Oates, also makes an appearance. As a sock puppet. Everyone drinks, plays cards and argues about determinism. The play is funny and hip -- as when Andrew tries to summarize Oates's entire oeuvre for Waverly in a few minutes. But it's also genuinely sad, and you have to admire the delicacy and incisiveness with which Wright tackles his difficult topic. Presented by Next Stage through March 26, Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive, 720-209-4105, www.nextstagedenver.com. Reviewed March 17.

Testosterone Monologues. Poet-performer Ed Ward tells three tales about maleness, each set in a very specific American time and place. The first is a silly-funny ghost story set in 1880s Denver, written to amuse Ward's six-year-old son. The second, set in 1976, provides a revealing flashback to Denver hipster street life post-Kerouac but before the greedy '80s and corporate '90s. But it's Ward's final monologue, "Jerry Judge," that really lifts the performance above the sphere of the mundane. He evokes his inner-city boyhood in early 1960s Philadelphia, the relationship he formed in college with an upper-middle-class Jewish anthropologist fascinated by his background and the atmosphere in a Philadelphia bar on the night when local tough guy Jerry Judge takes on heavyweight champ George Foreman. Presented through March, PS 1515, 1515 Madison Street, 303-322-9324. Reviewed March 17.

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