'Caveman' is comedy club material

February 06, 1997|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Lyric is a very big cave. A very, very big cave.

Put one lone caveman on the stage of the Lyric Opera House, and he nearly gets swallowed up.

At least that's what's happening with the one-man show, "Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman." Maybe if the sound system were better, maybe if Becker's diction were clearer -- so that "chip bowl" (I think it was "chip bowl") didn't sound like "Chippendales" and "her magic" like "hermitage" -- it would be possible to appreciate his riff on the war between the sexes.

It's probably quite funny in a comedy club. Somehow it even managed to set a record on Broadway (in a theater one-fifth the size of the Lyric). But as an actor, Becker makes a good stand-up comic.

He lopes. He paces. He lets his jaw go slack. That's about it in terms of stage presence.

His show does have a thesis: Men are different from women. They come from different cultures, and in the best spirit of multiculturalism, we must learn to appreciate and honor the differences.

As an example of these differences, he claims research has shown that women speak 7,000 words a day, and men only 2,000. If so, Becker has been saying the same 2,000 words to audiences since this show debuted in 1991. One proof is that the only two references he makes to movies are both films that came out in 1990, "Ghost" and "Pretty Woman."

Granted many of the points he makes are amusing and well-observed (if not especially original).

On the subject of conversation, for instance, Becker points out that his wife makes dates with women friends just to talk. "If a guy calls me just to talk, I owe him money," Becker says.

In his commentary on how women shop differently from men, he claims that, as gatherers, women have a wide focus that benefits from a slew of stimuli, while men, as hunters, have a narrow focus that zeros in on its prey -- "I need shirt!" -- captures it and takes it back to the cave with as little loitering around the mall as possible.

The show, which begins with a videotape of Becker and his wife, is loosely structured around a party Becker attended in which a group of women insisted all men were the business end of donkeys. Dismayed, Becker returned to his cave, summoned up the spirit of a caveman and learned some basic truths about the sexes, which he shares with us here.

"Loosely," however, is the operative word about this structure, which does keep Becker on the subject but doesn't keep him from being repetitive. Since nearly 1 million people have now seen his show, Becker is unlikely to heed outside advice, but "Defending the Caveman" would greatly benefit from the expertise of a theatrical director.

That said, it should be acknowledged that the idea of a man spending nearly two hours talking about how men don't talk is rather humorous in itself. But this caveman needs to narrow his focus on honing his performance skills. And he also needs a smaller cave.

'Defending the Caveman'

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday, 7: 30 p.m. Sunday, with matinees at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $19-$39.50

Call: (410) 494-2712

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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