After the Revolution. Playwright Amy Herzog enters a very specific world in After the Revolution: the passionate, close-knit, hyper-idealistic world of Jewish Communism in New York City during the early decades of the twentieth century. For these activists, Soviet Russia was a model. But when Khrushchev denounced Stalin during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, American Communists were forced to re-evaluate. Some renounced Marxism, some continued to believe in its basic tenets but left the party, and others became apologists for Stalin. Among these deniers — or semi-deniers — are members of the Joseph family in Herzog's play. The year is 1999. Grandfather Joe Joseph, now deceased, is a towering figure in the family's mythology, a hero of the left who stood up to the bullying of the House Un-American Activities Committee. His granddaughter Emma has inherited his passion for politics. A lawyer, she heads the Joe Joseph Fund, which seeks justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a real-life Black Panther sentenced to death for the murder of a policeman. When she discovers that Joe was in fact a spy for the Soviets during World War II, her entire world is shattered. She cuts off communication with her father, Ben, because he hadn't told her, argues with Miguel, her lover and co-worker, and contemplates ditching the fund. Helpless, Ben tries again and again to reach out to Emma. Herzog has said that she sees her work as centering more on the father-daughter relationship than on politics, but the Josephs aren't the kind of people you can readily empathize with. The play is more interesting for the things it has to say about the way cultural and historical perceptions change with the passing of time. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through October 19, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Reviewed September 19.
Defending the Caveman. This is a low-key, low-budget one-man show, part standup comedy, part general nightclub act. Written by Rob Becker, the piece has been appearing in intimate venues around the country for several years. Becker was inspired by the comment he frequently heard from women that "men are assholes," and set out to defend his gender. The differences that set men and women against one another, he posits, are based on the primitive past: man's function as hunter, woman's as gatherer. Because a hunter must focus almost maniacally on one thing while a gatherer takes in the details of entire landscapes, men tend to simplify and go directly to the point, while women wool-gather, scramble, synthesize and come to their own, often idiosyncratic conclusions. Banal as all this sounds, it's backed by research; most experts will admit that men and women are wired differently. And that's why Defending the Caveman is funny. It helps a lot that Colorado native Cody Lyman, who delivers Becker's monologue, is an appealing performer: strong, supple, self-aware and possessing an easy masculinity. Defending the Caveman is hardly revelatory, but it's still an endearing attempt to bridge the gap between the sexes. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through November 3, Garner Galleria Theater, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed September 26.
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The Full Monty. This musical is a variation on the British movie of the same name, moving the story of a bunch of out-of-work guys to Buffalo, New York, where they've seen the females go crazy for a Chippendale-type stripper. The men need money — and they also desperately need the approval of their women — so they decide to stage a show of their own. They may not have impressive biceps, gorgeously defined abs or sinuous dance moves, they figure, but they do have the essential equipment. The scheme's primary mover is Jerry. He's separated from his wife, and his inability to keep up child-support payments may lose him all contact with his son. His best pal, Dave, also unemployed, is eating himself into obesity and too depressed to make love to his wife, Georgie. Then there are those who join the troupe, including Horse, an arthritic African-American who hobbles in to audition and blows everyone away with his rendition of "Big Black Man," and efficiency expert Harold, who put the others out of work and is now on the dole himself. All of these guys are regular working stiffs, mildly homophobic, not much given to introspection. But in the course of the action, they become more broad-minded and more self-aware. There's just a touch of ferocity in this warmhearted production, supplied by the performances of two of the women: Norelle Moore, with her slightly threatening slutty beauty as Estelle, and the edgy Amanda Earls, who gives Georgie so much passion you wonder how poor Dave — even newly invigorated — is ever going to keep up with her. But this is really the men's night, and they easily hoof away with it. Seth Caikowski is a wonderful Jerry, tough and touching, and he gets strong support from the others. The ending is pure exhilaration as six gorgeous studs — skinny chests, jutting bellies, white legs and black socks notwithstanding — triumph over the uncaring universe to the joyful shrieks of their women. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through November 9, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder. 303-449-6000, bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed September 26.