- Defending the Caveman
- by Rob Becker
- Performed and directed by Cody Lyman
- Produced by Theater Mogul and Nederlander of Bethesda
- Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy
On stage at the Bethesda Theatre, two prehistoric cave paintings serve as historic reminders that even though we think we’ve changed, our DNA programming hasn’t. One shows males hunting bison; the other, a naked female fertility goddess. Everything men and women do today started way back in 25,000 B.C. Defending The Caveman, a one-man show, written by Rob Becker is a laugh-your-heart-out, good-natured show that explores the battle between guys and dolls
“How can you be so old and not know how to clean a bathroom?” she asks. “Why don’t you go in and program the VCR?” he responds. We’re really modern-day Flintstones, according to the show. But what saves the material from devolving into late night shtick and makes this funny show original is Becker’s well-structured, well-researched, scholarly backup of the stereotypes with history, sociology, psychology, even anthropology.
Since Caveman’s 1991 start-up in San Francisco, it’s traveled around the world, including to sold-out venues in the D.C. area. What’s impressive is that in 1995, Caveman made it to Broadway to play for two-and-a-half years and became the longest running solo play in theater history. Now performed by Cody Lyman, who is a laid-back-relaxed guy with impeccable, comic timing, the caveman is back again to set the record straight on gender differences. He still wields a club but not to “bop ‘em in the head and drag ‘em back to the cave.” He really protects and worships his goddess like some “prehistoric Angelina Jolie.” Now, women in the audience are really hooked.
Looking totally comfy in worn jeans and faded T-shirt, Lyman is a broad shouldered hunk of a caveman who projects a sweet sensitivity underneath his macho stance. But what’s this backtalk the superhero has gotten since the reign of feminism? Why the male-bashing and the all-men-are-jerks hostile attitude? Lyman’s slack-jaw takes of disoriented bewilderment are worth the price of admission. Here are some of the answers.
Men are hunters. Women are gatherers. Men are more focused and goal-oriented. Women gather up the dirty laundry and wash it in the washing machine. Men hunt through the laundry, find a t-shirt and put it on. Then they go bowling or watch TV, according to the script.
The hunter zeroes in on his prey until he kills it. Shopping is brought up and you hear audience laughs of recognition. A guy wears out a T-shirt before he buys a new one. When he goes into a store he shuts out stimuli to hunt down exactly what he wants. Whereas a woman eyes everything around her, comparison shops, takes in all sights and sounds around her before she fills her shopping cart. Like her ancient ancestor, she gathers and stores for a long winter.
Lyman, who has worked professionally as an improviser and studied at Chicago’s famed Second City Conservatory, uses his spontaneity like a trump card. The reactions must be different every night. When a couple plans to attend a wedding or a formal event, what’s the first question a woman asks? Someone calls out: “What am I going to wear?” There’s this response because we all know women who will go out and shop ‘til they drop to look “pretty.” Men don’t much care unless their careers are on the line.
It’s when the roles cross over and mix with the one-sex culture that the troubles really happen, caveman claims. Women want cooperation because they like to talk. Guys negotiate and want silence for refueling. At a party, men will sit three feet apart without eye contact. Women stand close in and bond by gabbing. Guys compete and have a fight, but when it’s over, they settle and move on. Women can’t stand the strong-man’s silence as he refuels. She wants to talk about feelings for five hours. I admit to groaning at the sexist baiting, ready to walk out at “Women are not hindered by logic.” But any sneering changed to cheering at the heart-warming end.
Send up a flare to defend the battered cavemen of modern times. Defending the Caveman must have saved more than one marriage. It will make different people laugh for different reasons because there are tidbits in it for everyone. The ambiance for the 750-seat Bethesda Theatre stage, has a cozy café and sandwich and beverage bar in the lobby-great for refueling. Couples, even strangers, walk out conversing, more connected.
On the way home, my husband noticed that as we tried to run down the escalator to reach an open door on the Metro train, a group of women blocked our descent. What were they doing? Standing on the escalator and talking. “Men wouldn’t do that,” my husband joked.
- Running Time: 1:50 with one 15-minute intermission.
- When: Now thru July 27
- Where: The Bethesda Theatre, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, two blocks walking distance north of the Bethesda Metro on the Red Line. Parking available at the Cheltenham Public Garage behind the theater.
- Tickets: $37.50 and $50 on sale now at the Bethesda Theatre box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.bethesdatheatre.com, and by phone at (301) 657-STAR, (202) 397-SEAT, (703) 573-SEAT, (410) 547-SEAT, and (800) 551-SEAT.