At the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall through June 14
The buzz about Defending the Caveman is correct. Rob Becker’s spot-on comic monologue about the battle of the sexes teems with hilarity, humility and human insight.
Becker wrote the play across three years in the late ‘80s, then premiered it in San Francisco in 1991, performing the role of the caveman defender himself. Defending the Caveman went on to become the longest-running solo show in Broadway history, and today, dozens of actors perform the piece in multiple languages in something like 35 countries around the world.
Houston’s incarnation of the comedy stars Raymond McAnally, who brings to the role a marvelous philosophical bent (this should come as no surprise; he earned his B.A. in philosophy at Sewanee University) and a sincere sympathy for the differences between women and men.
Caveman’s premise is that men and women are just wired differently. Always have been. Dating back to the days when men hunted with spears and women gathered berries and charted events by the phases of the moon. Problems arise when women expect men to act and think like women and when men think women will appreciate things that are appreciated by other men. Multiply that philosophy and the ensuing insanity times a little over two hours and you have Caveman.
McAnally does a wonderful job of revering women. He’s at his best in the show’s quieter moments, discussing how an about-to-be-dad is building a backyard fort for a kid who’s not even born, for example. And he’s spot on when he doesn’t talk at all, letting facial expressions and body language take over (his pantomime of a guy fishing trip is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen). But there are riotous moments in this show where he plays it just a little too laid back.
This is a show that’s boisterous and big-hearted. It’s laugh-out-loud, side-splitting funny in several places – despite the fact that you’ve heard all this before. You won’t learn anything new in Caveman, but you’ll thoroughly enjoy this repeat romp though Men and Women 101.
Besides a witty and engaging lead, though, Caveman requires an engaged audience. This is a show about us, about our quirks as men and women. And if the audience isn’t laughing, isn’t nudging each other and nodding, it doesn’t really work. So, know you need to uphold your end of the deal when you see it. And you should see it. If for no other reason than the example of the chip bowl in how women “cooperate” and men “negotiate” is one for the ages. - Holly Beretto