By Patrick B. McGuigan
Women are from Venus, men from Mars?
We fellows are hunters, while the ladies are gatherers.
We protect, they nurture.
These are, in the end, quite traditional stereotypes that may not quite fit any one of us perfectly. … but the thing about stereotypes is that they can, at least good-naturedly, say something about those things we share.
The feminist movement deconstructed the war between the sexes, at least in its high Victorian manifestations. That deconstruction was good, or bad, or something in-between, depending on where you stand, philosophically, or perhaps upon your gender.
Rob Becker’s “Defending the Caveman” is an example of reverse deconstruction, gigging at both the sensitive male and the assertive woman, the unfeeling guy and the emotional gal.
In the delightful one-man CityRep production now running at the Civic Center, feminists get some gigs – but the accuracy of many of the classic reflections about male cluelessness get uproarious validation.
The show opens and ends with “cave” allusions, with effective lighting and deft use of art to drive home the points about men, women, and how much things have changed (or not) since our ancestors came forth from Eden, or dugouts in Kenya, or Neanderthal caves in Europe.
A video sets the stage with a witty exposition about a particular couple, opening the way for the solo performer to engage with us.
Occasionally, actor John Venable was improvisational, a la classic Johnny Carson. When a couple of digs at Oklahoma City (even the Thunder) gained merely chuckles rather than roaring laughter, he said to himself, in an aside, “kill the regional humor.”
Venable is skilled and effective, disarming in the conversational way he talks to the audience and, occasionally, to individuals. His delivery is realistic and wonderfully unaffected, as if you are talking to him in the living room – or the backyard, or an outdoor patio at your favorite bar, eatery, or favorite park.
Becker’s script methodically proves true the publicity tagline: “Relationships can be a laughing matter.” The minimalist set pieces perfectly evoke the era – say, Bedrock Season Three.
Suffice it to say that in this story, prototypical images of men, and of women, are constructed, destroyed, and then tenderly refashioned in the course of about 90 minutes of performance.
(With an intermission, the show runs under two hours.)
Details on tickets, then some final thoughts.
Tickets are $8 for students, teachers and military personnel (with ID), $20 (groups of eight or more), $30 (matinees) and $35 (evening performances), and may be purchased by calling the CityRep Ticket Hotline at 405.848.3761 or the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office at 405.297.2264 or 1.800.364.7111.
Tickets may be purchased online through the CityRep website at www.cityrep.com, or through the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office website at www.okcciviccenter.org. Season sponsors are the Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Richard P. Dulaney Foundation.
The show premiered last weekend, and is showing at Civic Center in the Freede Theatre.
The second weekend schedule continues as follows: Thursday, Feb. 14, with a special Valentine Day’s performance at 7:30 p.m. Evening performances continue Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee show Sat. Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m., then the closer at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17.
For some, the script’s language might be a bit raw. Still, it is reflective of the current culture and, in context, not gratuitous.
In the end, truth be told, this play reminds us of all the ways in which women and men need one another – for companionship, friendship, reality checks, intimacy and so much more. Not coincidentally, it might help some understand why “the other” needs others (men need men and women need women) to be truly human.
High-minded analytics aside, this play affirms marriage and commitment, and that’s not always the case in contemporary theatre.
“Defending the Caveman” is funny, entertaining, engaging and at times inspirational. It is highly recommended.