Before there was man, there was boob. Or at least that’s the way that Defending the Cavewoman retells the creation myth in its opening few moments, positing that Eve originally had a third such appendage out of which God then formed her a companion. It’s a clever enough feminist revision of the original story, and an engaging way to introduce audiences to the show’s amusing irreverence and basic concerns.
After all, given the degree to which it still rages, it isn’t exactly hard to imagine that the eternal battle of the sexes is something that dates back to the earliest moments of our evolutionary history. In fact, there’s a sense in which the show itself is not only an examination of this battle but a manifestation of it, given that it was written in direct response to an earlier play that had the opposing mission of Defending the Caveman which enjoyed some notable popularity.
Lindsey Corey stars in the Unites States premiere of Emma Peirson’s Defending the Cavewoman at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. (Photo by Alberto Romeu)
After premiering in South Africa in 2000, this female-centric take by Emma Peirson and Vanessa Frost has now found its own not-insignificant success in productions staged around the world. But, in a bold move by Actors’ Playhouse, this is the first time the show has been brought to the US, albeit with a few revisions to better suit American sensibilities. And though it sticks to pretty surface level observations regarding male-female relations, Defending the Cavewoman does succeed quite wholeheartedly in its aim of mining modern womanhood for all its comedic potential.
While it’s also worth noting that the play’s scope of exploration stays limited to the trials and travails faced by one comfortable suburban everywoman rather than anything more inclusive, there’s enough universal in protagonist Evelyn’s struggles to understand her other half to allow Defending the Cavewoman to appeal not only to women themselves but the men who have to put up with them.
Or should I have phrased that last clause the other way around? After all, at least as Evelyn tells it, it’s she that has to do most of the putting up with in her relationship with her husband Chris, who still retains a rather boob-like uselessness when it comes to matters like household chores, effective communication, and having the humility to ask for directions.
While wives and mothers may see themselves most reflected in the show’s conception of femininity, even uncoupled women can commiserate with other aspects of the female experience explored in Defending the Cavewoman, such as the difficulty of the dating game or the pressure to maintain a perfect figure that prompts many of us to perceive any passing carbohydrate as a mortal threat.
.Lindsey Corey stars in the Unites States premiere of Emma Peirson’s Defending the Cavewoman at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. (Photo by Alberto Romeu)
In this production, the mile-a-minute jokes also have the phenomenal advantage of actress Lindsey Corey, whose energetic performance in this one-woman show is essential to its substantial entertainment value. Along with embodying Evelyn and her distant ancestor Eve, Corey also plays a plethora of other characters throughout the play, including her husband and some of the guests in attendance at the dinner party the two throw on the play’s inciting occasion of their tenth anniversary.
But between Chris’s disinterest in preparations for the gathering, a suffocatingly tight dress, a condescending mother-in-law, and an unexpected ailment suffered by family dog Sarah Jessica Barker, the evening becomes a comedy of errors that ends up driving Evelyn to such overwhelm that she consults the prehistoric ancestor referenced in the show’s title in desperate hope of guidance.
Throughout this rollercoaster ride, Corey seems to effortlessly maintain the audience’s interest with her dynamic work, which has been shaped by director David Arisco to ensure the ninety-minute show never grows even slightly stagnant. The actress also appears fearless in her willingness to incorporate plenty of physical comedy into the proceedings, something made all the more impressive by the fact that she spends most of the show clad in a curve-hugging cheetah print dress.
Though this is one of only two costumes, the other being a flowery Eve getup, designer Ellis Tillman does excellent work in establishing each character’s vibe with these memorable choices. And while the play utilizes a relatively minimalist set by Jodi Dellaventura, it is given much added texture by projections designed by herself and Natalie Taveras, which pop-up to give us visuals that flesh out settings and enhance the story’s themes.
Though I also note that the stereotypical conceptions of “men” and “women” built into the play’s framework have countless counterexamples, these stereotypes are so omnipresent in pop culture that the play’s humor works nonetheless. And behind said stereotypes often lurks an actual observation of differing tendencies in which many might perceive some truth, such as in the hilarious sequence when Evelyn “translates” some typical male utterances to reveal their actual meaning. “Nice dress,” for instance, would become “I’d like to have sex with you,” while “Would you like to have dinner with me?” generally means “I’m hungry now, but I’d like to have sex with you later.” Sounds about right!
Lindsey Corey stars in the Unites States premiere of Emma Peirson’s Defending the Cavewomanat Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. (Photo by Alberto Romeu)