“Eddie and Dave” at People’s Building runs through Nov. 28

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Listening to the first three songs on Van Halen’s self-titled debut album will tell you much of what you need to know heading into “Eddie and Dave,” a gender-bent play about the founding, rise and struggles of the iconic hard-rock band. Because wedged between the hits “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “You Really Got Me Going” is “Eruption.” The instrumental track features guitarist Eddie Van Halen doing his thing without the vocal pyrotechnics of his wild-haired lead singer.

Showman, thy name is David Lee Roth. Guitar god, ye shall be called Eddie. And though you two shall be yoked together in the eternity known as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, your agonistes will be the stuff of VH1 “Behind the Music” obsessions.

And so, at the People’s Building in Aurora, the Catamounts have mounted a larky production of Amy Staats’ play. The roles of Dave, Eddie and his big brother and band drummer, Alex Van Halen, are inhabited by female actors, and Valerie Bertinelli is played by a fella. Bassist Michael Anthony gets short but clever shrift.

If you go

“Eddie and Dave.” Written by Amy Staats. Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson. Featuring Christopher Berghoff, Janae Burris, Candace Joice, Missy Moore and Alicia “Lisa” Young. Through Nov. 28 at the People’s Building, 9995 East Colfax Ave., Aurora. Tickets at catamounts.org;  info at 720-468-0487.

“Eddie and Dave” is a memory play, states our guide, a MTV VJ (played by a nimble Janae Burris). Her memory play, she emphasizes and then cautions, “is brightly lit … is sentimental, and not at all realistic.” That a VJ is narrating the history of the band isn’t far-fetched. It’s a role perfectly suited to the tensions of the band that reached stardom at a moment in which video was, to paraphrase MTV’s first tune, doing in the radio star.

The group had a thwarted reunion at the 1996 Video Music Awards. They hadn’t been on stage together in over a decade, and Roth couldn’t stop jiving and hip swiveling behind the just-announced winner: tongue-tied alt rocker Beck.

Eddie (Candace Joice) and Valerie Bertinelli (Christopher Berghoff) share a moment in “Eddie and Dave” at Catamounts. Credit: Michael Ensminger, provided by Catamounts

A fair amount of the biography here is accurate. As kids, Eddie and Alex moved with their parents to the U.S. from Amsterdam. Their pops was a frustrated jazz musician and made sure the boys were classically trained. The teens met Roth in Pasadena, Calif., when they were looking for professional amps for their gigs. Roth was, as the VJ puts it, “a clinically extroverted rich boy.” Opposites were drawn to each other, and the rest was hair-story.

As Dave, Missy Moore lets her freak flag fly. In addition to blonde mane tossing, cock-on-the-block strutting and hip gyrating, her Roth has moments of Rothian wisdom. Before things go south for the band, he often tries to settle Eddie’s more self-doubting tendencies. When Eddie expresses worry someone might steal his riffs and licks, Dave says, “So what they steal your technique, man? They’re not gonna play like you. So it don’t matter if they pull on the sword, it’s not gonna come out of the stone.” Uh, right.

As the guitar virtuoso, Candace Joice rocks vodka and cigs, habits that eventually nudged Eddie into sobriety (and might have been responsible for his cancer diagnosis). The guitar prop might as well be air. Although sound designer CeCe Smith comes through with a fun use of music samples — for example, Eddie working on the synthesizer start of “Jump.”

The Catamounts’ production of Amy Staats’ Van Halen play “Eddie and Dave” offers some Van-tastic fun, from left: David Lee Roth (Missy Moore), Alex Van Halen (Alicia “Lisa” Young) and Eddie rock on. Credit: Michael Ensminger, provided by Catamounts

The play hews to its title. Alex remains something of a cipher, behind sunglasses and his imagined drum kit. Even so, Alicia Young has some fine slapstick gestures. And what is a band without a femme fatale causing problems between the guys? In “Eddie and Dave,” Van Halen’s Yoko Ono, its Courtney Love, is Bertinelli, who is starring as the kid sis on “One Day at a Time” when she meets Eddie. Here, she’s portrayed by Christopher Berghoff — and the dude most definitely doesn’t look like a lady – especially in a pink grandma nighty.

Under the direction of Amanda Berg Wilson and stage manager Wayne Breyer, the whole crew keeps things flowing. Like roadies, they deserve a shout-out for their ace attention to the details. It’s a tight little set that allows for the stadium rock antics of the band and Dave and Eddie’s intimate conflicts.

One of the best scenes deals with Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” for which Eddie contributed a legendary solo. Earlier, Eddie had threatened to go play with Gene Simmons and Kiss. “With all that makeup, no one will know it’s me.” Fat chance. Watching Dave and then Alex listen to the radio and then register the owner of those unmistakable arpeggios is worth the price of the ticket.

Although it’s the lure, the gender-bending in this production is more fun than it is illuminating. There’s plenty here to ponder about fame and popular culture, but it feels like an opportunity was missed to say something even more nuanced about the competition and the camaraderie of male friendships. But the final words of the VJ suggest that maybe that was never the playwright’s aim. Instead, it was to remind us all of the sublime in the ridiculous, to remember that “all things great and magical are inherently ridiculous,” and that for a spell these guys were Van-tastical.

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