Defending the Caveman by Rob Becker. Performed by Mark Mitchell. Directed by Wayne Harrison for the Ross Mollison Group, at the Playhouse, October 7 and 8, 2004.
When I read that Rob Becker was born and raised in California, in 1956, wrote Defending the Caveman over a three-year period from 1988 until 1991, during which time he "made an informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology, along with dramatic structure and playwriting", and is a stand-up comedian, I must say I entered the Playhouse fearful this play might be farcical.
But I was wrong. Mark Mitchell, in this Australianised version, warmly invited us in to enjoy the funny side of male-female sexual relations, dealing quite firmly with the view that though women come from Venus, men don't really come from the third-largest planet in the solar system despite, to use the now politically popular American term, often being called arseholes.
Mind you, I still don't trust this north American view of human prehistory, entirely based as it is in European cave paintings and pregnant Venus statuettes, and the assumption that all people used to live in nuclear families in caves while hunting and gathering. And the idea that only men ever hunted and women did all the gathering. The knowledge we now have from our part of the world shows the script up to be academically challenged.
Comedy, of course, can play with this kind of truth and yet still reveal truths about our foibles. The reactions of both women and men in the audience last Thursday - hooting with laughter, spontaneously applauding - were clearly responses to sensitive buttons being appropriately stimulated.
The strength of the play is the idea that the differences between the sexes, though based somewhere in evolution, are expressed today as cultural differences, which we can all learn to understand and appreciate, though this doesn't mean that either side should be forced to change their ways. Rather than extract the cheap laughs of a farce, this is genuine comedy with humour which helps to bring people together rather than drive them apart. With Mitchell's relaxed and expert performance, this made for a pleasant and worthwhile evening's entertainment.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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