If you’re having a little trouble lately communicating with your significant other, it might be time to see “Defending the Caveman.”
Billed as the longest-running solo show in Broadway history, “Defending the Caveman” stars Michael Van Osch, whose primary mission on stage, other than being funny and entertaining, is to help improve the communication skills of both men and women. The show comes to Proctors for four performances beginning Thursday night at 7:30 through Saturday.
“The show is about the differences between men and women, and how those differences get us in trouble,” said Van Osch, a Canadian-born actor who went from the world of sports marketing to show business a little more than four years ago. “If a woman says something a man doesn’t understand, we think they’re mysterious. If we say something they don’t understand, they just think we’re wrong. Well, we’re not wrong; we’re just different.”
“Defending the Caveman” was written and performed by Rob Becker, a San Francisco native who studied anthropology, psychology, sociology, mythology and prehistory during the three years it took him to write his play. It was first performed in San Francisco in 1991, made it to Broadway in 1995, and has since been seen around the world in 30 countries and performed in 15 languages. Its Broadway run was from March 1995 to June 1997, an unparalleled feat for a one-man show.
’Defending the Caveman’
WHERE: GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., tonight and Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday
HOW MUCH: $40
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
“I saw Rob Becker do it in Atlanta in 1999, and I never would have imagined that it would be the first Broadway play that I would do,” said Van Osch. “It was a very interesting show, and I don’t know if they’ll ever take it back to New York, but I’d love to do it there. It’s a comic phenomenon. It’s done all over the world, and I think they’re six of us performing the show in the U.S.”
“Defending the Caveman,” according to Van Osch, is the kind of show that lures back audience members. Just one showing is not enough.
“The writing is great, and that’s why people seem to come back two or three times to see it again,” said Van Osch. “Everyone can see themselves in the play, or it might remind them of a relationship they’ve had in the past. They see themselves or their partner. I’ve heard how couples have come into this play in the middle of a spat, and they like the play so much they walk out arm in arm.”
Becker’s in-depth research into prehistoric times was another key factor in the play’s success.
“One of the things the play explains is the difference between men and women,” said Van Osch. “Men were hunters, and as a hunter you go out and stalk your prey, and you sit in the woods very quietly. The men bonded through activity, not conversation. Women were the gatherers. They were concerned about the large group of children they had with them, and they were constantly making contact with each other, making sure everyone’s keeping up so they won’t be eaten by a lion.
“Now, you fast forward to today, and when a woman says she’ll call you, she means as soon as she gets home. When a man says he’ll call you, it means sometime before he dies. A lot of us aren’t clued in to that difference.”
Van Osch follows the script Becker wrote more than a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean he won’t improvise from time to time.
“There’s no fourth wall, and I’m doing it live. So every night, there’s something a little different,” he said. “I talk to the audience. That’s how the show is set up. So usually I’ll have some fun with them. But it is a great script. So we pretty much stick to it for the most part.”
Late entrant to show biz
Van Osch never seriously considered a performing career as a kid, at least not in show business. What he did want to do was to play hockey.
“I never had the acting bug, and I never really appreciated acting as a kid,” he said. “I was too busy playing hockey and all kinds of sports. The thought of me acting came to me a lot later.”
Born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario, Van Osch earned a degree in recreation and leisure studies from the University of Waterloo and then his MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University. He worked in the sports marketing business for more than 10 years, dealing with a number of sporting events, including the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the Soccer World Cup.
“I got bored with my business career and decided that I needed more creativity in my life,” said Van Osch. “I was in Atlanta and saw an audition for a production of ‘Our Town.’ I auditioned, they gave me the lead role, and I never looked back. I went to New York for a couple of summers to study and do some auditioning, and then I moved there for good in 2004. I realized it was time to get serious and make this move a full-time one. So I left Atlanta.”
Connecting with audience
Since moving to the New York area (he now lives in Stamford, Conn.), Van Osch has appeared in four movies and a handful of soap operas and television commercials. He is also working in regional theater around the country, and it is the stage medium he enjoys the most.
“There’s nothing like the theater to give you that immediate connection with the audience,” he said. “That’s fantastic, and I never want to give that up. But I also enjoy TV and doing film work, and I want to do more of that. Hopefully, I’ll continue to have the opportunity to work in both on the screen and the stage, and I think most actors like to work in both mediums.”
Van Osch, who is single but has a longtime girlfriend, sees no reason his two-year association with “Defending the Caveman” should end any time soon.
“The great thing about this show is that it’s not every week,” he said late last month. “I was up in Canada last weekend for three shows, I have this week off, I have a one-night stand in Tampa coming up and then I can drive to Schenectady for my three shows up there. The schedule allows me enough time off that I can do some commercial work in New York, as well as a little TV and independent film stuff. Right now, I’m doing a lot of stuff on the side so this show is a perfect match for me.”
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