Battles of the sexes have probably been fodder for storytellers and thespians alike since the beginning of human history, so it makes total sense that author Rob Becker takes audiences back that far in time to explore the male perspective of the age-old debate. And the insight he offers in “Defending the Caveman,” now playing at Detroit’s Century Theatre at The Gem Theatre, couldn’t be sharper or funnier – at least from THIS male’s perspective!
And if the very vocal responses from the capacity crowd on opening night is any indication – primarily from women, interestingly enough – Becker proves at least one thing: That despite our significant differences, men and women can at least laugh at the same things – although I suspect for very different reasons!
Becker’s observations begin with one simple fact: that in the caveman’s day, men were the hunters and women the gatherers. As such, each sex developed very different, but necessary skills: Men were tightly focused on a single objective (protect their families, provide meat to eat), while women had much broader responsibilities (raise kids and collect fruits, vegetables and information). As a result, specific social traits developed that became hardwired into each of the sexes, which have since been passed down through the ages. And THAT, Becker says, helps explain why men and women are STILL such different creatures today.
It’s an intriguing theory Becker presents – shaped by an informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology. The result has earned him praise from psychologists, counselors and therapists, and propelled “Caveman” into the record books by becoming the longest-running solo play in Broadway history.
It’s easy to see why: The insightful, yet sweet script is never harsh or condescending. Instead, it celebrates our differences while also poking gentle fun at them. And it keeps you laughing pretty much from start to finish.
That’s helped considerably by the dynamic performance of Ben Tedder, Detroit’s Caveman. (There are a handful of Cavemen touring the country with the show.) Built like he could have been a high school football player, the 31-year-old Chicago-based actor/comedian comfortably commands and bounces about the stage. Not only does he TELL the story, but his face and body flesh it out.
That’s particularly important when one stands alone on stage for nearly two hours (with one intermission). He draws the audience into the performance by making eye contact with them, as if he’s talking to each person individually. And with a strong, outgoing and charming personality, you can’t help but be captivated by him.
More important, however, are Tedder’s skills as a story teller. He easily jumps from character to character and clearly delineates each. And with a few simple gestures, his women are just as well defined as are his men. (Watch his eyes in particular.)
Plus, he’s quick to respond to comments from the audience – although one seemed to be a word he’d never encountered during a performance, especially coming from a woman!
So if you’ve ever wondered why men prefer to read the newspaper in the bathroom or why men and women shop so differently, gather the clan and make the journey to downtown Detroit for a delightful lesson on why men aren’t really jerks after all; we just have different customs, cultures and histories! (And far fewer words to share them with!)
The show contains mature themes and dialogue.
‘Defending the Caveman’
The Century Theatre, 333 Madison St., Detroit. Alternates every other week with “Robert Dubac’s The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?” Friday-Sunday through March 21. $34.50. 313-963-9800. http://www.gemtheatre.com