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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday — February 18, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Hunting, gathering
and other curiosities
of the sexes

Express Arts Editor

Imagine yourself at a Super Bowl party: People are mingling, talking, watching another sleeper. Men standing around a potato chip-bowl suddenly realize it’s empty. What do they do?

They ro-sham bo, or debate, or negotiate to see who has to go for more.

What happens if the same scenario is presented to women? Naturally, they all go to the kitchen together and talk as they refill the bowl.

Long before men and women were determined to come from different planets—Mars and Venus, respectively—playwright Rob Becker was busy deciphering the mysteries of men and women. What he came up with was a 90-minute comedy, "Defending the Caveman," the longest running, solo play in Broadway history. The play, starring L.A. actor Chris Sullivan, is on a nationwide tour and will be presented Sunday, Feb. 29, in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn. Curtain time is 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Chapter One Bookstore, Johnny G’s Subshack, and River Ranch Clothing in Ketchum, or Flolo’s in Hailey.

The one-night-only performance is presented as a fundraising benefit for the Pioneer Montessori School in Ketchum.

Originally opened in San Francisco in 1991, "Defending the Caveman" went on to a two and a half year run on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater. The New York Times called the show a "… comic phenomenon."

Becker’s play, in general terms, is about how men and women relate. But Becker makes light of the differences in the context of a greater anthropological scheme. Much of the disconnect between the sexes, he asserts, is rooted in the observation that men are basically hunters and women are gatherers.

Sullivan, who was in Colorado performing last week, said in an interview that the analogy goes a long way in explaining our differences. "Hunters concentrate on their prey to the exclusion of just about everything else. For instance, I bet you turn down the car radio when you get lost driving. There’s no reason to, but men do it."

In that same vein, men’s sense of territoriality stems from that hunter background, Sullivan explained. It’s why men never ask for directions when they get lost. "Who wants to pull over, roll down the window and ask someone into your rolling world at the exact moment you have demonstrated your incompetence, that you can’t get to your destination?"

Then there is the issue of language. In the play it is noted that, on average, men speak about 2,000 words a day and women 7,000. Sullivan explained that hunters try to be quiet, that’s what they have to do when they’re hunting. Women operate in groups, "they talk more, gather information. And they talk to scare others away. When it gets quiet is when they know something is wrong." Women bond by talking, sharing emotional insights. Men bond by sharing silence, and the occasional name calling, for long periods of time.

Sullivan, who has been touring with the show for the last six months, said it has been very well received. "The play tries to reintroduce humor and comedy into relationships. You look around in the audience and realize other couples are having the same arguments. It allows you to look at the arguments you may be having with some humor."

Playwright Becker spent nearly three years writing the play after an informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology and sociology. Becker has said in previous interviews, "I was always interested in the way that men and women perceive each other. I began to think of them as two different cultures, with different customs and rituals. It makes sense that we would evolve differently."

Becker, originally a stand-up comic, opened the show in San Francisco in 1991. From there it went to Dallas, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and then Broadway. After 702 performances, the show went on tour with two actors, Sullivan and comic Kevin Burke alternating in the lead role.

Sullivan, who is married to a ballet dancer in L.A., said his wife helped him a lot with the show, as did the playwright. Becker directed him for three weeks before the touring show was launched. After six months of touring, Sullivan sums up the production succinctly:

"There are really two goals of the show: to remind men how magical women are, and to remind women we men aren’t all … s."

You can fill in the blank.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.