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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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It’s a one-man battle between the sexes

‘Caveman’ focuses on how men, women evolve

“Defending the Caveman” is more than just a one-man play; it’s a sociological phenomenon.

Let’s put it this way: How many other Broadway comedies have been used by marriage counselors to help men and women understand each other?

Rob Becker’s “Caveman” is based on the simple premise that men and women have evolved differently.

“It’s loosely based on the idea that, if a woman does something the man doesn’t understand, we’re generally OK with it,” said Cody Lyman, who stars in the touring version of the show that plays the Bing Crosby Theater this weekend. “We might not get it, but we’re OK with it.

“But if a man does something a woman doesn’t understand, they think that we’re wrong. The show is about how we’re not wrong, we’re just different, and we have evolved with those differences since prehistoric times.”

Becker, a comedian, developed the play out of a stand-up routine. It wasn’t simply observational comedy, however. He gathered his material from anthropology, history, psychology and mythology and put it all together into a comic-theatrical package.

The result? Men and women in the audience recognize themselves, and each other. (“I see a lot of elbows flying during the show,” said Lyman.)

It was a local hit in San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C., before Becker opened a Broadway run in 1995. He played 702 performances in two and a half years, making it the longest-running solo play in Broadway history. Then he started touring it around the world.

Becker finally hung up his spear several years ago and trained other actors to do the show. Lyman, a Colorado actor who had experience in Shakespeare, Beckett and the classics, was more than happy to carry on the “Caveman” tradition.

“He told all of us that we weren’t hired to be Rob Becker clones,” said Lyman. “We were hired to be ourselves. He hired people who would do the show better than he did.”

Hundreds of shows later, Lyman still isn’t remotely tired of it.

“One of my favorite things is that when the show is done, I throw my hat and glasses on so that nobody will recognize me and I sneak out in front of the theater,” he said. “I watch couples leaving arm and arm.”

As the title implies, the show is partly a defense of a man’s caveman tendencies.

“The caveman has had a bad rap,” said Lyman. “The first image that people think of is a club over the head and dragging a woman back to the cave.

“The truth is, the caveman actually worshipped women. They keep finding these Venus statues (female idols) in these cave digs – they’ve found a few hundred of them now.”

Yet the play goes beyond a defense of men. Lyman said it pokes fun at both sides and speaks to women as well as men. And the message spans cultures as well.

Lyman said he once went to a production in Europe and watched an actor do the entire show in German. He said the audience laughed at exactly the same moments.

“Defending the Caveman” is now a worldwide franchise, with eight actors touring the show in the U.S. and 40 throughout the world, from Japan to Croatia to Guatemala.

Yet, somehow, it hasn’t found its way to Spokane until now.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the story with a new audience,” said Lyman.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at jimk@spokesman.com.
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