Motherhood Out Loud. This play is performed by six actors — five women and a man — and consists of little playlets compiled by Susan Rose and Joan Stein on many aspects of motherhood: a new mother dealing with her own hovering mother, a woman raising an autistic son, and another whose seven-year-old son loves princess clothes and wants to go to a Purim party dressed as Queen Esther. Then there's the gay man who, with his partner, becomes a mom through the good offices of a lesbian surrogate. A Muslim mother explains menstruation to her daughter; parents see their rock-musician son off to college and face their empty nest; a woman frets that she'll lose her son to her annoyingly perky daughter-in-law. The show may not be deep, but it is great entertainment: funny and thought-provoking, genuinely moving in parts. The plays vary in quality; some you'd like to see expanded into full-length pieces, while some are amusing in the moment but wouldn't stand extended scrutiny. Still, the six performers — LuAnn Buckstein, Mehry Eslaminia, Megan Heffernan, Jeff Kosloski, Cindy Laudadio-Hill and Jane Shirley — all work beautifully, with real sincerity and heart. Presented by the Avenue Theater through February 23, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed January 31.
RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy. Although this one-man show is in some ways hagiographic, it also humanizes its subject, showing his vulnerabilities and flaws. The Kennedys are generally seen through a haze of nostalgia, with Robert Kennedy remembered as handsome, idealistic, well-read and physically courageous, an inspiring presidential candidate who had just won the California primary when he was shot down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Yet there were criticisms, too. He was ruthless in managing his brother's presidential campaign, obsessive in his pursuit of organized crime as attorney general. His relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. was testy, and he'd had the great civil rights leader's phone tapped. Some observers questioned the sincerity of his interest in social justice, pointing out that it had come late. RFK
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reveals that if this idealism did come late, it also ran deep. In James O'Hagan Murphy, director Terry Dodd has found the perfect actor to play RFK. As an actor, Murphy always tends to give the impression of holding something back, something ambiguous and slightly shaded back. So he's able to portray all of RFK's contradictions, soul searchings and internal arguments, the spasms of petty vanity and also the greatness of soul. Presented by Vintage Theatre through February 24, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora. 303-856-7830, www.vintagetheatre.com. Reviewed January 10.
Wake: A Corruption of The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Early in Shakespeare's The Tempest, there's a longish scene of almost pure exposition as Prospero, a powerful scholar and magician, explains to his daughter Miranda why they are stranded on an enchanted island. Prospero had been the Duke of Milan until his brother stole his dukedom and sent them both out to sea on a rickety craft. By a miracle, they survived and arrived at the island, which they share with Caliban, an earthbound, half-human creature, and a sprite of pure spirit, Ariel. And now, Prospero tells Miranda, he has called up a storm that will shipwreck his evil brother, his nephew Ferdinand and much of the court so that he can exact his revenge. In Buntport's Wake, Prospero is long gone, but because he's so present in the minds of Miranda, Caliban and Ariel, and because the story he told provides the structure for their lives, he haunts the stage. Except that what he described never happened: no storm, no ship, no prince for Miranda, no revenge, no forgiveness. All the three characters have to give their existence any shape is a cassette tape of Prospero's that tells the ending of the story, but which they're forbidden to listen to. On a set consisting of ramps, white tree branches, an upper room and a grass-topped cage containing Caliban, they wait. This Miranda is no beautiful princess-to-be, but a wild, mucky girl with haystack hair, and her relationship with Caliban is intense. Meanwhile, Ariel has become an ambiguous, gray-clad figure, someone Miranda summons with an imperious gesture when she wants something. The acting in this production is absolutely astounding, and Adam Stone's soundscape haunting. Wakeis imagistic, suggestive and evocative rather than logical. It's about the way artists shape reality and narrative shapes worlds. And also about music, waiting, being half-mad with boredom and — in an unexpected moment as brief and radiant as a firefly flickering in the darkness — love. Presented by Buntport Theater through February 23. 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com.