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Fiction. In the first scene of Fiction, two people argue and flirt in a Paris cafe. They seem entirely familiar with each other; their argument, though heightened and intensely clever, still has the comfortable, teasing, accustomed rhythms you expect of a conversation between lovers. But in the second scene we learn that this was actually the first meeting of now long-married writers Michael and Linda Waterman, or rather — and it takes you a little longer to figure this out — the first meeting as Michael recorded it. Now Michael is the kind of blockbuster novelist his younger self scorned, while Linda has never been able to repeat the success of her first novel, At the Cape, famed not only for its writing, but for its tragic autobiographical elements. Playwright Steven Dietz is a clever soul. His plotting is cunning, and the layers of complexity he builds around the basic concepts of truth and fiction are even more so. Linda soon discovers that she has a fatal brain tumor and no more than three weeks to live, and she has one request: She wants Michael to read her journal after her death, and in return, she'd like to read his. What she discovers is that during a stay at a writers' colony, Michael had an affair with Abby, the colony's enigmatic administrator. Reading on, she discovers Abby on page after page of every single journal, and she's devastated. When she confronts Michael, he admits to a one-month affair, no more. Everything else, he says, he made up. And then Abby herself appears at the door. She has come to see not Michael, but Linda. As written, Michael and Linda are fascinating, but you wouldn't really want to know them; they'd be the kind of dinner-party guests whose self-conscious wit silenced everyone else. But director Richard H. Pegg has cast Rhonda Brown and Thomas Borrillo, two actors of such warmth and appeal that you can't help empathizing with them. The result is a fascinating evening — and that's no fiction. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through April 24. 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed March 10.

The Field. Bull McCabe has been farming a few acres for several years — fencing, tearing out weeds, fertilizing — until the barren soil has become a lush pasture for his herd of cows. And now the owner, a poor widow, needs to put the field up for sale. Enter an American businessman, William Dee. He wants to pave over part of the land and set up a business selling concrete blocks. We want to empathize with McCabe, but The Field

is also very much about rural Irish culture in all its harshness, poverty and violence, and the man is a vicious bully and wifebeater who, along with his equally unscrupulous son, once tracked down a donkey and beat it to death for trespassing on his field. So the outline of another theme entirely emerges, a theme having to do with social isolation and the way the evil promulgated by one psychotic human being can spread until it engulfs an entire community. Terrified or complicit, worn down by the hardships of their own lives, one by one the villagers enable McCabe's depredations, from the widow condemned to poverty by his actions to the slimy, go-along-to-get-along pub owner and his harassed and overburdened wife, Maimie. The Field is not a great play, but it is a strong and interesting one with many vital characters, and director Rita Broderick has created a solid production that's buoyed by several standout performances. Presented by the Denver Victorian Playhouse through April 2, 4201 Hooker Street, 303-433-4343, www.denvervic.com. Reviewed March 3.

Homebody/Kabul. The greatest strength of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul

lies in the hour-long opening monologue, in which an eccentric British housewife, holding an outdated guidebook to Kabul, tries to get her arms around the great, rich, anguished and turbulent mystery that is Afghanistan. Surrounded by people of diverse cultures and religions, sequentially occupied, Kabul once served as a crossroads for the ancient world, with trade routes converging on it from the north, south, east and west, and Kushner's genius was to put his own thirst for understanding into the soul and body of this woman, who interweaves the book's plethora of facts with her interpretations and imaginings, ponders the passage of time (an important theme) and muses on her own safe life in London. She's an entirely original creation. Having made her pilgrimage to Kabul, the Homebody vanishes — either torn to pieces as she wanders burqa-less, or having fallen in love with an Afghan man and decided to convert to Islam; the script suggests both. By the time we learn this, though, the play has turned prosaic. The Homebody's husband and daughter go to Afghanistan to find her, and what a wretched pair they are. Husband Milton spends the entire visit in a hotel room, afraid of venturing out. Daughter Priscilla has two modes: angry or whining. Convinced her mother isn't dead, she goes racing in search of her, abusing people she finds insufficiently helpful, carelessly tossing off her burqa whenever she can — which, given her mother's possible fate, is unforgivably stupid. When she reveals a suicide attempt and an inadvertent abortion in a far-too-long scene with her father, I can't tell whether we're supposed to empathize or see her so-conventional traumas as puny against the vast canvas of Afghan suffering. In all, though, this production is a large, interesting and raggedly ambitious work. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through April 16, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed March 24.
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