News Column

'Caveman' is humorous take on innate gender differences [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

August 9, 2013

YellowBrix

Feminist writer Erica Jong summed up the war of the sexes with her famous quip: "Men and women, women and men. It will never work."

Rob Becker's "Defending the Caveman" offers entertaining insights into why that's true.

The one-man comedy performance is making its second appearance as a presentation of the CLO Cabaret through Oct. 20.

The show has been running somewhere in the world since its debut in San Francisco in 1991, and it holds the title for the longest- running solo play in Broadway history.

More than 12,000 people saw the show when it played at the Cabaret at Theater Square in 2011.

There's an abundance of humor about the different ways that men and women behave that generates a great deal of laughter.

But there's a thoughtful subtext to the show's message that men and women can't let go of their behaviors. They were hard-wired into human DNA during their Neolithic pasts. We continue to hunt, gather, defend and nurture much the way our cave-dwelling ancestors did; only now, we do it while shopping at the mall or watching television.

Becker wrote the show over a three-year period while making an informal study of psychology, sociology and prehistory.

The basic premise is that men were hunters who focused on that single task -- lying in wait silently for prey -- while women were gatherers who wandered in search of fresh fruits and vegetables.

From there, it expands to contemporary examples such as the sexes' different styles of shopping -- men go to Target to hunt down a blue shirt, buy it and go home. Women wander the mall not just to buy but to search for what may be new and fresh.

The show begins with a short, silly film with some historical background and examples of the contemporary divide between men and women. The set has a cartoon-like appearance -- a television and an armchair that appears to have been constructed out of stone.

But most of the show is performed live by Vince Valentine, who spends the next hour-and-a-half (with a 15-minute intermission) explaining with humorous examples of why neither sex understands the other and why the voice on your GPS is always a woman's.

Valentine, a native Philadelphian, brings an amiable, relatively non-partisan approach to the show.

His character is that of an easygoing, non-threatening blue- collar guy whom you might easily mistake as your pal Vinnie from the old neighborhood. He'll be with the show through Sept. 8, after which John Venable takes over to finish the run through Oct. 20.

The show's chief pleasure is in getting people to laugh at themselves and their spouses or companions and engage in some good- natured arm-nudging, eyeball-rolling and eyebrow-raising.

"Defending the Caveman" will be performed through Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays and Aug. 15, Sept. 26 and Oct. 17. Admission: $34.75-$44.75. Details: 412-456-6666 or www.clocabaret.com

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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