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 October 27, Garner Galleria Theater, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed September 26.
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.
Vigil. The play opens with an old woman in a bed and a looming figure in the shadows of the doorway behind her. It looks like a true Halloween scenario — the big bad wolf approaching the helpless grandmother — and this impression isn't altogether off, because the intruder is indeed a predator. His name is Kemp, and he claims he's the woman's nephew, here in response to a letter in which she said she was dying alone and needed help. For the next hour and a half, Kemp will stride the stage, muttering about his dislike of the human race and his impatience to see the woman, Grace, hurry up and die. "Do you want to be cremated?" he asks her early on. And a bit later, when she's feeling festive and putting on makeup, "Why don't you let the mortician do that?" He seems to want her to kill herself, and if she won't, he implies, he'll do it. And, oh, yes, Vigil
is a comedy — a very funny, if evil-hearted, comedy. Kemp remains oddly appealing because Lawrence Hecht plays the role with such abandon and panache and makes the character so proud of his own sheer nastiness — that is, when Kemp even realizes he's being nasty. Relatively silent though she is throughout, Patty Mintz Figel's Grace easily keeps pace with Hecht; she's like a cunning, playful little mouse trapped with a rampaging elephant. And although it never softens into hugs, mutual emotional revelation or a big reconciliation scene, there's a grace to the relationship that finally develops between these two people — and it's like nothing you've seen on a stage before. Presented by Cherry Creek Theatre through October 27, Shaver Ramsey Showroom, 2414 Third Avenue, 303-800-6578, cherrycreektheatre.org. Reviewed October 17. –Juliet Wittman