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.
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.
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The Most Deserving. The characters in Catherine Trieschmann's The Most Deserving are members of the arts council in Ellis County, Kansas. They have $20,000 to award to a deserving artist, but there aren't that many artists around, and anyway, they're having trouble deciding just what constitutes "deserving." Everyone has a motive for supporting his or her candidate, and those motives are fueled more by pragmatism, hatred, lust or petty score-settling than by aesthetic appreciation. Council head Jolene is concerned with the group's finances, which means finding an artist that their strongest supporter on city council will endorse: his son, for example. Dwayne, a broke car mechanic, could use the $20,000 and convinces himself to apply, arguing that his portraits of vice presidents are genuine art. Ted, Jolene's husband, is an Englishman who grew up in London but can't name a single painting in the National Gallery. We're never quite sure where Edie stands, and it doesn't help that her drinking periodically fuddles her brain. Only Liz Chang, an assistant art professor at the community college, appears to be a real advocate for art, and she's championing African-American outsider artist Everett Whiteside, who makes sculptures out of trash. Trieschmann's How the World Began played in Boulder a year or two back and proved she could write intelligent, thoughtful dialogue. Here she proves she can write funny — original, sudden-gusts-of-surprised-laughter funny, with a bedroom scene more hilarious than in any French farce. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through November 17, Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed October 24.