BWW Reviews: DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN at the Warner Theatre Still Gets Big Laughs
If you loathe formulaic television sitcoms where one spouse is always right and the other is wrong, then Defending the Caveman is certain to be something you'll enjoy. For author Rob Becker has done something quite amazing, and that is to perceptively explore with humor the relationship between the sexes. However dated certain segments may seem, the refusal by Becker to have the show take sides or lay fault with one gender is what makes Defending the Caveman standout.
Defending the Caveman begins when the Caveman (Vince Valentine) is asked at a party, "Why are men assholes?" Using a mixture of comedy and philosophy, with a hint of anthropology, the show seeks to bridge the misunderstandings between the genders and combat this argument. The Caveman accomplishes this by going back to his origins, one in which men were hunters and women gatherers, and looks at how those roles have evolved.
Now, the Caveman isn't a literal Caveman, the role is a metaphor. We learn that he's a blue collar guy happily married to Stephanie. The basis for his reply to the "men are assholes" question is drawn from his marriage. Many of those marital experiences will certainly be relatable to any couple or anyone with married family members.
As our Caveman, Valentine gives a magnetic performance. His terrific sense of humor and timing allows him to forge an early and lasting connection with the audience. You can tell he's having fun in the role because he's able, with great skill, to make both men and women see the silliness of their behavior. Valentine is also a talented comedian which allows him to get laughs with the points being made.
The give and take callbacks between Valentine and the audience provide the show with a synergy, an understanding, that all these experiences are universal. Assisting Valentine is The Flintstones-esq set complete with stone-age television which instantly sets the production's informal tone.
Defending the Caveman opened on Broadway in 1995. Since then, the show has toured the United States and 45 countries with great fanfare. It's easy to see why.
Becker's script is an insightful and witty examination of the sexes and their most common areas of misunderstanding. His ability to equally exonerate and appreciate the rationale of both genders is essential to Defending the Caveman's success. The show is honest with its approach that no gender is treated unfairly. One tip of the scales in favor of either would easily turn half the audience against our evening's narrator, the Caveman.
Another component of the show's success is its use of humor. No point is made with malice; everything is done to generate a laugh or tender moment. The understanding nature of the show easily puts the audience at ease. Nevertheless that doesn't stop portions of Defending the Caveman from seeming dated.
One joke about asking for directions seemed particularly archaic in the era of smartphones and GPS. There's little mention of social media and almost no mention of online dating in the show. A head scratching omission considering that more and more couples are meeting via the internet. All of this is evidence that relationships have further evolved since the show first opened on Broadway.
In a pre-opening interview with DC BroadwayWorld, Valentine said that the show continues to be updated and changed. Evidence of that can be seen with jokes about texting and DVR. The DVR joke got one of the evening's biggest responses. Still, the updates could go further.
Even with some dated material, Valentine and Defending the Caveman generated roars of laughter. It's hard not to enjoy this lighthearted and humorous treat.
Runtime: One hour and 50 minutes with one intermission
Defending the Caveman played two shows on Saturday August 2nd at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For more information on the show please visit: http://defendingthecaveman.com/
Photo: Vince Valentine in Defending the Caveman. Credit: Theater Mogul