Manhood gets a bum rap, but it wasn’t always that way. In the day of cavemen, man hunted the plains; he did what he wished and ate meat from bone. It was a simple time.
Today, bookshelves and talk shows and magazine stands snub men as assholes. The problem is, no men deny it. But can man defend — maybe even justify — his instincts? Can he, as the fictional Lester Burnham so nobly did, reclaim his dick from the mason jar under the sink?
Spear in hand, comedian Cody Lyman sets out to answer this question in the Broadway original, “Defending the Caveman,” running Feb. 12-16 at the FSCJ South Campus’ Wilson Center.
Lyman stormed the stage for opening night Feb. 12, joined by the Venus of Willendorf, which he affectionately dubbed the “prehistoric Angelina Jolie,” and a stone carved sofa and television set. He soon scatters his cave floor with some very worn-looking tidy whites and a shower-towel, because it’s just more comfortable that way.
The show started a little slow, but Lyman soon picked up steam with his cave-dwelling antics and quips that hit home for many couples in the audience. He explained how men and women’s respective hunter-gatherer roles still show up in everything we do, from sex to communication to conflict resolution.
The audience was mostly older, but the relationship comedy seemed to hit home with the been-there-done-that crowd. Still, college students would still get a kick out of Lyman’s all-too-accurate portrayal of bachelorhood — a world he describes as a “dirty, dirty, place.”
A few simple lighting effects, along with Lyman’s delivery, were very effective in transporting the audience from one scene to the next. One minute, we were in “sacred circle of underwear” in Lyman’s living room. The next, we’re in an ominous red-lit cave. The next, on a lethargic fishing trip. Lyman could change the mood of the theater like the flick of a switch.
Though “Defending the Caveman” sets out to explain male behavior, the one-man show actually does a good bit of attacking. Lyman presents a parody of man as the simple-minded Neanderthal, mouth agape and drooling in social situations. The keyword here is “parody,” but men have a slightly larger capacity for interest than humping, vegetating and eating red meat.
At the beginning of the performance, Lyman said that, through male role models over the last few decades, men have become increasingly feminine to appeal to the opposite sex. That’s interesting, and he’s definitely got a point here, but he doesn’t really talk any further about it for the rest of the show.
Did man necessarily jump ship on manhood? Is man truly evolving away from the machismo base-instincts of his cave days, or is this simply one big ruse to get laid?
Lyman ends the show strong and on a heartfelt note. He experiences a flashback and finds himself surrounded by cavemen passing on their traditions throughout the ages. He sees his father teaching him how to fish for the first time. He watches his wife sleep and knows it is his role to protect and provide for her. He spots a 12-year-old boy dancing next to a fire and realizes that the boy is himself.
“I am not an asshole!” the boy exclaims, holding his spear into the air in the climax of the show.
If its goal was to rectify man’s reputation, “Defending the Caveman” might have bitten off more mammoth than it could stomach — but at least its heart is in the right place.
For tickets to the "Defending the Caveman," go to artistseriesjax.org.