HOUSTON -- "You probably see more straight men at my show than at any other one-person show," observed Rob Becker early one recent afternoon on a publicity tour of Houston to promote his upcoming appearance in Defending the Caveman at the Brown Theatre, Wortham Center, Mar. 24 - 29.
Sitting in the lobby of the upscale Four Seasons Hotel, Becker contemplated his foray into the differences between the sexes, which he wrote as well as stars in. "Imagine going to a show sounding so macho but discovering a caveman who worships women as goddesses: what's not to like about that?"
Nothing, apparently, for despite oftentimes scathing reviews from the more prestigious publications, Defending the Caveman opened in New York at the Helen Hayes Theatre in March 1995 and ran for two years, becoming the longest-running solo play in Broadway history. "Some want to dismiss what I do because I get compared to relationship authors," he explained. "But I see this as a plus because I'm the only one referred to in this way." Becker finds comparisons to other one-person shows specious since in his mind what critics tend to be taken with are solo performers who take on lots of individual characters, rather than someone like him who investigates collective character. "That's not a play, what they do. That's a variety show."
When asked to comment on what Defending the Caveman is -- stand-up comedy or therapy or theater -- Becker smiled, "Comedy can be therapeutic but therapy is seldom funny. I think what I'm doing is comedy, definitely, but structured into a three-act play." While theater critics may fail to chart the arc that Becker's character goes through, Becker sees the evolution clearly: from a boy who likes his gender because he can have fun playing kill-the-guy-with-the-ball, as opposed to a girl doing "chores" while playing house, to an enlightened man appreciative of the advances that feminists have brought about. It's not for nothing, he said, that he studied anthropology and research psychology in addition to playwrighting when creating Defending the Caveman.
Men are hunters, women gatherers, Becker said. Yet it's women who are ultimately the protectors of men since the former have a wider focus of perspective than the narrower latter.Becker seems to be doing some gathering of his own. When he arrived at the interview, he was carrying a shopping bag. A quick tourist stop? No, he said, that was his luggage.
<>Defending the Caveman<> plays the Brown Theatre, Wortham Center, in Houston Mar. 24-29. For tickets, $34 - $40, call (713) 629-3700. Defending the Caveman has its own phone number, (888) CAVETIX, and a web site: www.cavemania.com.
-- By Peter Szatmary