“Defending the Caveman” finds humor in gender stereotypes

By Marc Schutzbank

‘ ‘ ‘ It happens all the time: the stereotypical ‘Where did you put that remote?? ‘- I need to… ‘ ‘ ‘ It happens all the time: the stereotypical ‘Where did you put that remote?? ‘- I need to watch the game!’ and ‘Now honey, can’t you get up off the couch and talk to me about your feelings?’ conversation. ‘ No one can deny men and women are different. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents ‘Defending the Caveman,’ to try and figure out just what it is those things are and turn a critical eye to the source of our greatest joy and greatest pain: men and/or women. ‘Rob Becker wrote this play in the early ’90s,’ said Michael Van Osch, who plays the caveman.’ ‘He was at a party talking about how men and women were different.’ Those conversations culminated in ‘Defending the Caveman,’ which talks about why we think of men laying on the couch and women chatting over a pedicure, and discusses gender stereotypes. Van Osch has played the lead role in ‘Defending the Caveman’ for the past three years, and during that time he married.’ ‘ ‘When I say that my wife is different from me because she is a woman, people say, ‘Well duh!’ But, you have to apply that concept of difference all the way down to those little everyday things that she does that get under my skin. They aren’t meant to annoy me, but they do because she’s a woman, and I’m not,’ said Van Osch who said the philosophy of the play helped him better understand his relationship with his wife.’ ‘Defending the Caveman’ takes audiences to the birth of gender-based roles, back to the Neolithic age where cavemen hunted and cavewomen gathered. Similar to Mel Brook’s ‘History of the World,’ the play shows how interactions between men helped to develop a masculine culture focused on activity and experience,while women developed a much more communicative culture, using words to express emotions and needs ‘mdash; something that men are not known for. The play continues to the present day, showing how our current gender needs play out in modern life. The play discusses how some of those differences in relationship needs came about. ‘Men and women bond differently. Men as hunters would bond through activity, and women as gatherers would bond through communication as they tried to figure out what was edible and what was not,’ said Van Osch Communication is at the center of any relationship, and thus it is the center of ‘Defending the Caveman.” ‘When a women tells you that she’ll call you, it means when she gets home she’ll call,’ said Van Osch. ‘When a man tells you that he’s going to call, it means that man will call you sometime before he dies.” ‘Defending the Caveman’ speaks about the role of male relationships. ‘Unfortunately,’ said Van Osch, ‘male relationships often get underrated, because we judge them according to feminine needs. Today’s culture is rife with ‘bashing of the sexes.’ So many songs on today’s hit list focus on the abuse of women, on rape and drugs.’ ‘That’s something that this play does not do,’ said Van Osch. ‘It’s about gaining an appreciation for both sexes and all of our quirky habits.’ The play hopes to share appreciation for our differences. For instance, men have a tendency to focus on one thing, having difficulty concentrating on multiple stimuli, ‘like if we’re driving and completely lost, we don’t ask for directions, we turn the radio off,’ said Van Osch . ‘Women, they can have a thousand things running around in their heads. If I thought like that, my brain would explode.’ The play is comedic because it talks about real problems that real people have. Van Osch thinks about the play when he feels himself getting ‘fed up when she wants to talk and talk and talk.” Women need to communicate.’ It’s part of how they work.