HOUSTON -- "When did a one-person show ever explore men and women as different cultures?" Rob Becker wanted to know in a recent interview to promote his appearance in Defending the Caveman at the Brown Theatre, Wortham Center, Mar. 24-29. "The rituals between the sexes: nobody else has done a one-person show about this. There's anthropology in my act, and social psychology. Not remote-control jokes."
Becker doesn't mean to sound defensive -- or does he?
Defending the Caveman was readily condescended to by most critics. But after opening in early 1995 at the Helen Hayes Theatre, it ran for more than two years and became the longest-running solo play in Broadway history. Becker wrote as well as stars in the serio-comic investigation of the gender gap. His research included not just the recollections of a 12-year-old Becker walking home with a bunch of school girls or a newly married Becker working things out with his wife, but also the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, Richard Leaky, Joseph Campbell, and a host of feminist theorists.
"Defending the Caveman is so subversive, in what I say about men and women. And in the form in which I speak. Defending the Caveman is a play, with three acts. Historically, one-person shows haven't been so tightly structured."
To his erudite detractors, Becker retorted, "I take a cave man and turn him into a feminist. I don't understand why this isn't a shocker." Think of the expectations that are routed, Becker added. The show is not an apology for a brutish lout. Rather, it's a movement toward enlightenment, sensitivity, evolution. Speaking of progress, Becker said that next up for him is Cave Dad, about children. He's taking notes now: from the library and from his two children.
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