According to Hoosier native Kevin Burke, he is "the only person stupid enough to walk away from his own hit show in Las Vegas." Luckily, you and I are the benefactors of that so-called stupidity, as Burke is now bringing his show home to Indianapolis. Defending the Caveman opens at Theatre on the Square on Jan. 23, after a 6-year, record-breaking run in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Defending the Caveman is a one-man play by Rob Becker about the misunderstandings between men and women. Maybe you're thinking that we've been there and done that. But it's never been done like this. Becker did a 3-year study in which he consulted with experts in anthropology, psychology and sociology, studying the differences between the sexes. "Rob did just a tremendous amount of research," Burke says, "and wrote a show that is not only fun and funny, but is also accurate. It has the weight of research behind it; it's not just some guy making jokes about his wife."
- Kevin Burke
Burke landed an audition when mutual friends connected him to Becker, who was looking for an actor to replace him as the lead. Burke recalls, "As soon as I opened up the script and started reading the play, I pretty much knew that I was going to get the role. I know that's a weird thing to say, but I knew it. As I'm reading it, I'm thinking, 'This is me, I am this guy.'" Burke's instincts were right on. He got the role in 2003 and toured with the Broadway production for four years before becoming the star of the permanent Las Vegas run of the show in 2007.
Even though he's played the same role night after night for an entire decade, Burke claims that he hasn't yet wearied of it. "As an actor, there are more levels to uncover in the play the longer you do it," he says. "The more you do this play, the deeper you can go into it. Plus, people walk out of the theater happy, spouses fall in love with each other all over again, and I don't think you can ever get tired of that."
That ability to serve as a mediator between the sexes is the X-factor that Burke believes makes the play so successful. He says it's a show that brings people together, not one that tears them apart. Sure, he knows of those productions about men and women, those that are one-sided or have an underlying threat of anger; but that's not this show.
"You can see light bulbs going on over people's heads during the course of the show and couples nudging each other," Burke says. "It explains women to men, it explains men to women. It's funny, nobody gets bashed and nobody is wrong -- we're just different."
For example, Burke notes that women's brains have more neuroconnections between hemispheres, enabling them to take in more information around them and process it more quickly than men. Men, on the other hand, tend to have a very narrow focus, which is reflected both in their primitive role as hunters and in their often-cited inability to look away from the television screen.
In addition to being the longest-running solo play in Broadway history -- and the longest-running show of any type in Vegas -- Defending the Caveman has also put its stamp on the Guinness Book of World Records. In March 2013, Burke became the record holder for Most Theatrical Performances in 50 Days, with 60 consecutive performances of Caveman. It clobbered the previous record of 50 with a big, prehistoric club. "It was difficult," Burke admits. "For seven weeks, I was on stage every day, and some days it was two shows a day. It's a tough record to break because of the rules involved." For example, the rules stipulate that the theater has to seat more than 300 people, and the cast has to remain exactly the same for each performance. But Burke powered through, claiming the record near the end of his Vegas run.
Contrary to popular belief, there actually is a downside to starring in a wildly popular Vegas show. While Burke was in Vegas, his loved ones stayed behind in Indiana. Because he only received 10 days off per quarter, his family time was extremely limited. After six years, the time apart had taken its toll. "I missed my kids, and they missed me," Burke says.
So he decided to return to the Hoosier state, joining his wife and two children in Zionsville, but he wasn't done with Caveman yet. By a serendipitous chain of events, he was connected to Theatre on the Square. The venue has committed to an open run of Defending the Caveman, which means that as long as people keep showing up and buying tickets, they'll keep running it. And that means that you'll be recommending this show to all of your friends for the foreseeable future.
Despite being what many would consider an informal expert in the field, Burke finds that his own life is still peppered with the little miscommunications that often arise between men and women. One night, while Burke was in the midst of a particularly intense game of Angry Birds, his wife, Karen, came across an Internet article that claimed "sex, like cooking and cleaning, is women's household drudgery." She laughingly asked Burke what he thought about it. Burke, in full hunter mode, had only heard "household drudgery." He replied, "Well, honey, why don't we just hire a girl to come in this week?"
Tut-tut. Typical caveman.