Surrounded by two paintings of prehistoric life on a buckskin canvas, and a dirty laundry hamper and a spear propped up against a coffee table, Andrew Chapman leads the conversation on the differences between hunters and gatherers, particularly the outcomes of men and women living together.
Broadway’s longest running solo show, Defending the Caveman, written by Rob Becker, has been brought to the Alumnae Theatre this month by I Love It Productions. This two-hour show uses aspects of stand-up comedy and audience participation to rehash tedious topics that make the show relatable to the crowd over 40.
Of course, if you are a strong-willed feminist in your 20s like myself, you might not have a whole lot to gain from Defending the Caveman, but that’s not to say that the show doesn’t get laughs from longtime couples.
The prehistoric premise is simple. Men, by design, were hunters, and they had a single thought process that allowed them to provide life’s necessary requirements, such as food and shelter. Women were gatherers, always collecting and storing goods and ideas to embellish the home. The show hinges on these traits to explain how women and men differ from each other. The show suggests men flicker through TV channels, while women must stop at every channel for a minute and gather information, implying that today, these traits persist. When the chip dip runs low, men will lazily negotiate why they shouldn’t have to be the ones to refill the bowl, while women will always offer to go together to replenish the supply.
The psychology behind the findings is a little stale and generic, and as a person who isn’t too keen on gender dichotomies, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. Women were portrayed as incapable of budgeting, limited to performing domestic duties. Men were viewed as ignorant when it came to things like cleaning a toilet bowl. Still, the show does not outright blame either gender for insensitivity or ignorance to each other’s differences; it merely validates conventional and outdated traditions.
The evening is riddled with PG-13 “am I right” jokes and provides the perfect platform for elbow pokes from older couples, suggesting that their partner is guilty of certain gendered traits. Some jokes like the “men are all assholes” joke are a little long-winded. At times, the humour reminded me of a low-budget TV special, and while the play does not employ any elevated language, the monologues come across as a little too relaxed at times. It would have been nice to have a little more flair in some of Chapman's jokes.
One-man shows demand creativity, highs and lows, and an overall commanding presence from the performer. Unfortunately, this production lacked any of that. As I craved a crazy monologue that had dramatic twists and turns, Chapman just didn’t seem to own the role or have diversity in his delivery. The lukewarm performance felt a little one-dimensional, and for a story that is all-too predictable, the energy should have been a top priority.
Throughout the production there were discrepancies in detail. For example, Chapman refers to his wife on multiple occasions but his ring finger remains bare. There were other creative aspects that made up for the poor attention to detail, though. When Chapman describes women’s cold feet in the bedroom, the puppet shows got a lot of laughs from the audience.
The set design and lighting changes were effective and helped bring some depth to the play. The boulders on stage that spun around and revealed the differences between each gender’s wardrobe worked very well. However, the show would have definitely benefited from more audio to exaggerate some of the jokes.
This is a show geared towards longtime married couples that are looking to extend their Valentine’s celebrations. However, if you are a millennial and are not totally convinced by the outdated sociology behind gender relations, then this is a show that can be bypassed.
Defending the Caveman runs until Feb. 26 at The Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St.)