Stage Capsules

In Rob Becker's world there are two kinds of people: women and men. They have "different languages, different customs, and different histories." Men hunt; women gather. Men negotiate; women cooperate. These pop psychology clichés are presented as insightful truths: Men are messier, women don't channel-surf like men do, men drink from the carton, women stop and ask directions, yadda yadda yadda. Becker speaks in short sentences, in a high, Andy Rooney-ish register, followed by long pauses, while his bearing and physiognomy resemble those of Homer Simpson, highlighting his cartoonish take on the sexes. Is he funny? Occasionally, but he's aiming for more than that. He spends about 80 minutes explaining that men and women are virtually different species, so you wonder why they should ever get together. The last 10 minutes provide the answer: love, of course! The hunter needs the gatherer, and vice versa. The audience eats up this view of love as a sort of Reese's peanut butter cup (Hey, your spear's in my basket), and Becker does make one salient point -- men are charged with fear of intimacy when they would rather sit quietly with someone and not talk, though in fact this is intimacy. He is sincere and even moving in describing the protective love he feels for his wife, but Defending the Caveman doesn't illuminate -- it placates. Becker's publicity material states he has a "loyal following among the therapy community." It's telling (and depressing) that in their art and in their therapy, people prefer easy half-truths to the difficult, beautiful intricacies of their lives.

Details

Defending the Caveman
Extended through Feb. 27 at the Curran Theater, 445 Geary (between Mason and Taylor), S.F. Admission is $34.50-49.50; call 551-2000.

Starship Shakespeare
Through March 12 at the Shelton Theater, 553 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), S.F. Admission is $10-29; call 665-3491

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Starship Shakespeare
A production of the Shakespeare Festival Los Angeles retooled by the writer (SF/LA founder Ben Donenberg) for a local cast and director, Starship Shakespeare should be much funnier than it is. The script is probably a fun read, but director Russell Blackwood's haphazard staging and some self-indulgent acting dull the cleverness. The Starship's Captain (Shane T. Stokes, employing Shatner-ian tortured postures and pauses) lies uneasy in his captain's chair. His wife, Lady M (Stephanie Taylor, whose lewd dominatrix poses repeatedly bring things to a dead stop), conspires against the Captain with his half-brother, half-Klingon/half-Scottish Chief Engineer MacLear (Nick Sholley). Also plotting are the hunchbacked navigator Richard (the very funny David Berkson, who of all the cast members is the most comfortable with Donenberg's fractured iambic pentameter), and Chief of Security Iago (Jonathan Gonzalez). The Captain's hapless son, the depressed, hungry Hamlet (Will Springhorn Jr.), and his erstwhile girlfriend Juliet (Lisa Schreiner, who only makes an impression during a fetching go-go dance) wander around as well, while Prospero (Kim Larsen), a Vulcan, coolly advises the Captain. Literally and figuratively messy (blood, whipped cream, and baked beans are smeared all over during the course of the show -- shades of Ken Russell's Tommy), the play never really comes together. Kirk would never run as loose a ship as Blackwood does.

 
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