As a child, Rob Becker watched boys playing kill the guy with the ball and girls playing house. That observation, along with what his program describes as a three-year-long “informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology, along with dramatic structure and playwriting”– can I have this guy’s life? — led him to the conclusion that women gather, men hunt. Women collect data, men focus; women cooperate, men negotiate; women best friends talk about their feelings, men best friends swear at each other.
Best friends who haven’t seen each other in a while, gal version: “You’re my oldest and closest friend.” Best friends who haven’t seen each other in a while, guy style: “Still driving that piece of shit?” They mean, Becker patiently explains, exactly the same thing.
This may not be news to many people — indeed, it won’t even be accurate to many people — and truth be told, there’s a lot in Becker’s monologue you will have heard before, including the fact that male drivers, lost, hate to pull over and ask for directions, and that the ’90s seems to have produced two sexes — women and assholes — and a climate in which it may seem perfectly reasonable to debate whether the penis is a sex organ or a birth defect.
Becker is no Iron John. He’s a barrel-chested comic with a beer gut, three goony expressions and a slovenly delivery that makes one wonder if he hasn’t recently had his jaw wired and where’s the understudy?
So how do you explain the fact that he sells out barns five times the size of the Helen Hayes and has marriage counselors beating a path to the box office? This is, after all, a monologue with a conclusion of men protect the turf in which women can practice their magic, and I’m not making this up.
Well, there’s something ultimately sweet and reassuring about “Defending the Caveman,” a ramshackle treatise that manages to be hip and retro at the same time. Though the performance reviewed featured a particularly loxlike audience and a sound-effects tape on Quaaludes, Becker persevered in his efforts to explicate the differences between the sexes and argue on behalf of peaceful co-existence.
Take the subject of communication, a fairly fundamental one. Women kaffeeklatsch. Men fish. Mix and match, you’ve got problems. The solution? It takes a lot of male energy to have the strength to make yourself talk about your feelings when you really want to go to sleep. And it takes a lot of female energy to sit with a guy and watch TV and not say anything. In both cases, just do it.
The appeal of “Defending the Caveman” is its very banality. It’s the secret of the sitcom: When it comes to the man-woman thing, most of us are pretty much in the same boat. Many arrows hit the target, even if some inevitably miss. The price is right, and the show should have a run. Take your best friends. Afterward, the girls will compare notes, the boys will watch TV. Go figure.