DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. In a lot of ways this show puts you in mind of The Lockhorns, the bafflingly archaic comic strip about marital unhappiness that still runs in the Tribune. While Rob Becker's one-man show has been accused of being an apology for the suburban lifestyle, it's altogether stranger: its only possible audience seems monstrously unimaginative, dissatisfied couples. There are laughs here, though, of two varieties--uncomfortable or bitter--and as a bonus unamused spectators get to feel superior to the bizarre wretches chortling. You'd call the show dated if you could figure out which decade its simplistic codification of sex differences supposedly hails from; in the end these archetypes seem completely alien.
Like the discourse of a talkative drunk, Becker's long monologue requires a lot of stamina and displays a practiced touch; sitting through it requires more stamina still. Bad anthropology leads to bad sociology, which leads to a bunch of unsurprising, unfunny contrasts between male "hunters" and female "gatherers," Becker acting as genially grandiose tour guide to his half-baked theories. His horrifying conclusion--that Homo sapiens has evolved into a race of women who shop and men who watch TV--is even scarier when you consider how many men and women shop and watch TV. Eventually his application of caveman explanations to anything handy becomes mind numbing--which may be the point, reinforcing the bland, consumerist relationships Becker describes.