DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN PRESS
By Gary Murray
The three men in front of me at the La Madeline restaurant were enthused to be talking about their latest project. Actors Paul Perroni and John Venable along with 20 year expert producer Jason Lindhorst are the three artists who are bringing the Broadway smash play Defending the Caveman back to Dallas in a run starting March 21st until at least April 15th at The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas.
Defending the Caveman runs Wednesday through Sunday with Paul doing the show until April 1st and John taking over the role April 4th. The address of the theater is 5601 Sears Street; Dallas, Texas. 75206. Ticket prices range from $22-$32.
The intimate venue is just perfect for the show that has had a long history with the city. Back in 1992, Rob Becker brought his idea for Defending the Caveman to the Dallas Improv comedy club. The one man performance is more than just a stand-up routine, but an informal study of prehistory with includes both the psychology and sociology of the sexes. It went from comedy clubs, to small theaters to Broadway and beyond.
Jason Lindhorst, the producer of this run, attended University of North Texas and worked at the Improv comedy club as a doorman. Since he was in music and understood the concept of lights and sound, he soon began doing lighting cues for Rob Becker on his Defending the Caveman performances.
As the show grew, so did Jason’s duties. Rob Becker took Jason on the road with him to Washington DC, Philadelphia, Chicago then eventually Broadway. According to Jason, “Rob knew he wanted to make this a one-man theater show. You had to go to New York to get legit to where you could get on the subscription theater circuit. We ran for two years on Broadway and we went out on tour. We replaced Rob in New York with Michael Chiklis.”
Jason started as the stage manager when the show went on tour and over the past 20 years has steadily moved up the production ranks. Over the days he has been the Defending the Caveman production manager, production supervisor, and is currently producing the performance. “Our show is a big word of mouth show with women. We can sit still in a few different cities and get a little following.”
Jason was involved with Caveman both during its Broadway run and the National tours. When Rob retired from the show, Jason worked with other actors in order to bring different ‘cavemen’ into the folds of the piece. The show is playing in over eighteen countries and in different languages. It has been running in Germany for over ten years. According to Jason, no producer has ever lost money putting Defending the Caveman on stage.
Paul Perroni is a veteran actor with stage credits of such diverse plays as Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He performed Defending the Caveman in NYC for 12 weeks which lead to a three year stint on the national tour.
He said of the show, “It is less about the battle of the sexes. I think that some women will come to the show thinking that I’m going to be up there just coming to the defense of the man. That’s not the case. It’s really about being up there just saying I understand where both sides are coming from. It truly is equal and when you understand where both sides are coming from in a relationship then you are less likely to get into trouble with that other person.”
Paul was living in Chicago doing theater and came to NYC to audition for another play. He saw the notice about Caveman and decided to give it a try, landing the role. Then, he had eight days to learn the script and five days of rehearsal before he went on the road.
On the work Defending the Caveman, Paul said, “It has some stand-up comedy elements but it is a play. You are taking the audience on a journey with you, talking about the relationship I have with my wife. You really relate to the audience when the couples come and see it.”
“I’ve had women come up to me and give me a hug and their husbands shake my hand. That is perfect, that is how equal it is. You are playing the character but you are being yourself. I’m just telling you these funny stories in my living room.”
Even though the show has played in 4,000 seat venues, Paul was excited to see Defending the Caveman take residence in a smaller seat auditorium. “No matter how popular (the show) gets, to move to a larger venue makes it less intimate. I think that spreading the success of the show by word of mouth wouldn’t even work as well as I think it does in an intimate setting.”
John Venable is a very well known local actor who has been on the boards in such diverse stages as the Water Tower Theatre, Theater Three, Uptown Players, Circle Theatre, Lyric Stage, and the Garland Civic Theatre. He had appeared in an episode of NBC’s Friday Night Lights and been a shill in both regional and national commercials as well as the driving force behind the film Karma Police.
Even though he has not done a performance yet, John feels that he is still a part of the show. He has been with the show preparing for 18 months. “I passed muster with the people being on tape.” He views the show a little different than Paul does. He said, “It’s like couples therapy but it is 1000 times funnier.”
John said that the biggest challenge was having 90 minutes of material and it is all on you. Paul added, “Now after doing it, it is being engaging. Wither it is one person or 400 people, they all gotta be in your hand. For 90 minutes, that can be difficult to do.”
“I get motivated” Paul said, “because the audiences are different. With this particular show there is nothing like looking out into the audience and seeing these couples have a good time with each other. That is what this show is about. It is all about relationships and learning how the other sex communicates with one another.”
Then Paul added, with a laugh, “What actor would not want to do a one man show and make people laugh?”
John noted that, “In the entire show you are breaking the fourth wall, asking them questions and expecting them to yell things out. It is completely different experience.”
“People come to the show,” said Paul, “because it is about men and women relationships, and how we communicate differently. When we learn where the other person is coming from, you can grow more in your relationship. That is what the show is about. To veer off of that, you would lose people in the audience.”
Then Paul paused and added, “You have to listen, that is where the acting comes in. They are like your partner in that particular scene (and I have to) listen to where that particular joke may or may not be taking them. You gotta listen to that then you have to find how to work with that. I think that is what makes it intimate and that is what makes the audience have a good time. I’m listening to see what they are responding to.”
The audience is a part of the show and Jason believes that the smaller audience size will pull the crowd into the play in a way that being in a larger theater could not. Paul added, “Come back now that it is intimate and I guarantee you will have a good time.”