By Aaron Krause
“How can two such completely different creatures survive…in one solar system, on one planet, in one hemisphere, in one country, in one suburb, in one house…sharing ONE bathroom?”
1The above question is a query from Evelyn in the humorous and engaging 2001 play, Defending the Cavewoman. Of course, she is referring to the many differences between males and females.
Evelyn and her hubby, Chris, have somehow managed to survive 10 years of marriage, although it hasn’t always been easy.
To learn about the couple’s many funny misadventures, attend Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre’s delightful professional production of the one-person show, Defending the Cavewoman. It is running through Aug. 6 in the Coral Gables company’s intimate upstairs theater space to close the 2022-23 season.
The production features a stellar performance from the versatile and talented, award-winning South Florida actor, Lindsey Corey. Although Defending the Cavewoman is technically a solo show, Corey vivaciously and believably portrays more than 15 characters, seamlessly slipping in and out of each individual’s skin.
Corey is onstage for the play’s entire 90 minutes or so without an intermission. Yet, she never seems to tire and acts as energetically at the end as she does at the beginning. Certainly, this is a stamina-testing role, and Corey, blessed with remarkable stage presence, triumphs in the part.
In addition to Corey, performers Laura Turnbull, Kareema Khouri, and Carlos Alayeto have deftly recorded the voices of several other characters.
South African playwright Emma Peirson wrote Defending the Cavewoman, which Vanessa Frost helped to devise. The play was a response to Rob Becker’s triumphant one-man show, Defending the Caveman. That play ran on Broadway from 1995 to 1997 and toured throughout the U.S., including South Florida.
Meanwhile, Actors’ Playhouse’s mounting of Defending the Cavewoman, told from the female perspective, represents the U.S. premiere of the play.
Artistic Director David Arisco has been working with Seth Greenleaf, of GFour Productions, to revise the script for an American audience. And judging from the audience’s chuckles during the reviewed performance, American theatergoers should find Defending the Cavewoman to be a welcome escape from the world’s problems.
The escapist play focuses mostly on one day in the married life of Evelyn and Chris. Specifically, Evelyn talks to us on the day after their 10th wedding anniversary celebration. Their special day has hardly been problem-free. For instance, their dog urinates on Evelyn, he swallows something that lands him in the animal hospital, and the couple has to engage in an “emergency shopping session.” They don’t, however, have to buy cheese. That’s because it’s in the house. But, for the life of him, Chris cannot find it. So, naturally, he asks his wife where it is.
“Top shelf, left side, behind the pickles, next to the ham, under the butter,” Evelyn responds without hesitation or pauses.
Generally, the play portrays men as farting, grunting, snoring, snorting, primitive hunters who lack grace and polish. They’ve been that way since prehistoric times, and they haven’t changed much, the playwright suggests. Meanwhile, women are gatherers. For instance, they gather directions to a place by consulting someone else or a navigation system, while the men hunt down possible routes without asking for directions. Raise your hand if you can relate.
While the playwright seems to come out in favor of the female sex, she doesn’t anoint women as saints. Indeed, Evelyn comes across as an imperfect human being, one-half of a flawed but unique couple.
Part of the play’s humor and fun is that one of the characters is a David Attenborough-like male narrator who speaks as though he is narrating a nature documentary. By the way, Attenborough is a British broadcaster, biologist, natural historian, and author.
The Attenborough-like character provides insights into the male and female sex. For instance, when Evelyn leaves Chris in charge of her purse while she shops, the narrator describes Chris’s situation.
“The human male – now far away from its natural environment, and surrounded by daunting and mostly overpriced items, has been given the duty of guarding the Human female’s hand-bag. Its bewildered eyes dart left and right, as it shifts its weight from one limb to another in the vain hope that time will somehow speed up. Terrified of being spotted by a familiar male from its tribe…or even worse, by a more virile male from a neighboring clan, wearing a different sports jersey, its only relief comes in the soothing form of his son’s Pink-lemonade slushy, which it has also been tasked with protecting.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the playwright named the main female character Evelyn. Indeed, the play kind of flashes back to prehistoric times, when Eve (short for Evelyn?) finds herself without a partner. God (Kareema Khouri) humorously speaks with Eve, who seems serene during the time before man.
Whether Corey is imbuing the first woman with serenity or, later in the play, rapping like a dude without missing a beat, the performer is constantly captivating. With long, wavy reddish-brown hair, dark, wide eyes, and a strong, expressive voice, Corey deftly conveys numerous emotions with nuance. She is, at turns, boastful, enthusiastic, exasperated, dramatic, macho, mysterious, sweet, sexy, sardonic, seductive, sultry, surprised, thoughtful, and urgent.
While Corey mainly portrays Evelyn, she also plays several other female characters, as well as men such as her husband. By shifting her position and adjusting the tone of her voice, Corey transitions from one character to another—making it look easy each time. She sounds as though she is saying the words for the first time.
Arisco, who has directed Corey numerous times, keeps things interesting in this production. For example, he moves Corey around the stage to ensure variety. Corey also moves throughout the audience seating area as well and addresses patrons, sometimes individually. Arisco’s direction pays attention to detail. An eye wink from Corey, for instance, conveys as much as a spoken word.
Ellis Tillman has designed colorful and appealing costumes, while Eric Nelson’s varied lighting focuses Corey and creates different moods.
Matt Corey (Lindsey Corey’s husband) includes realistic sound effects to help bring this production to vivid life.
In addition, scenic and projections designer Jodi Dellaventura has created a simple yet effective set. Three map-shaped screens hang from above. One of the screens serves as a projection screen, onto which flash images that flesh out the scenery without requiring numerous scenic elements.
While one of the screens serves as a projection device, the others feature depictions that resemble animals and hunters, perhaps suggesting that apes are our ancestors. The set also includes a recliner and erosion cloth hanging from above. While the recliner’s upscale quality tells us something about the couple at the center of the play, it’s hard to determine the purpose for the erosion cloth.
However, in a production that is strong all around, it’s difficult to carp too much. Actors’ Playhouse ends this season by showcasing a star performer at the top of her game, performing material that will doubtless entertain.
Actors’ Playhouse’s production of Defending the Cavewoman runs through Aug. 6 at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. For ticket information, call (305) 444-9293 or go to www.actorsplayhouse.org.