PLAY REVIEW: "The Cave People," written and performed by the Rose Valley School Kindergarten class, featuring ROBERT BARRY as one of the woolly rhinoceroses.

As is true of most serious dramatic works, "The Cave People" works on several levels: On one level, it is the story of a group of primitive people who sit outside their cave while various animals run by; yet, on another level, it is the story of a group of primitive people who go inside their cave and get trapped by a giant rock.

But I am getting ahead of myself. For if one is to truly understand this work, one must first examine the philosophical underpinnings of its creators, the Rose Valley School Kindergarten Class, which has devoted several months to studying the Origins of Man, interrupting this effort only for Story Time, Music, Lunch, Cleanup, Rest Time, Sharing Time, Free Time, Painting Pictures to Go on the Refrigerator, Running Around Pretending to Be Jet Robots, Trying to Remember Where Your Sweater Is and Snacks.

As a result of this course of study, the class developed several concepts, which were posted on the bulletin board over near the Really Tall Tower Made from Blocks. These concepts reveal a wide diversity of opinion about the Origins of Man, ranging from the traditional Judeo-Christian biblical concept:

"This is Adam and Eve. They ate the bad fruit. They went back to God. They didn't have any clothes."

* . . . to the less-conventional Big Bird and Oak Tree concept:

"In the beginning of the world there was a big bird and an oak tree. The big bird had a coconut, and the moon was out."

And yet from this eclecticism of belief has emerged "The Cave People," a work that has not only a strong sense of cohesiveness, but also has a great big gray cave made out of papier-ma che' standing right next to the piano, which is sort of holding it up.

As Act 1 opens, some Cave People are sitting in front of the cave, and almost immediately the theme of Animals Running By is established by two woolly rhinoceroses, portrayed by Owen Smith and ROBERT BARRY, running by and making a noise like a 33-rpm recording, played at 45 rpm, of a bull elephant with its private parts caught in a trash compactor. And although the audience was unable to see the faces of these two fine young actors directly due to the fact that they were wearing yarn-covered paper bags over their heads, the power of their performances, especially that of the lead rhinoceros, ROBERT BARRY (the one who did not have his arm stuck through the eyehole), was such that even veteran drama critics such as myself were moved to take upwards of 20 color photographs.

This was followed by deer running by wearing antlers and brown underpants and waving at their parents, which set the stage for a moment of powerful drama as the dreaded saber-toothed tiger, played superbly if somewhat blindly by Matt Dorio with something on his head, came prowling by, bonking into things, causing the Cave People to poke each other with their spears and laugh. "They were really scared," explained the narrator.

The Getting Trapped in the Cave by a Giant Rock theme is then introduced by means of having the Cave People go inside the cave, then having the giant rock, which had been held up by a piece of yarn, fall down and almost block the entrance. In fact it probably did block the entrance, in rehearsal, although in the actual play, the piano player had to shove the giant rock over with her left hand, but she did this with a very natural and convincing motion. Just then another group of Cave People emerged from behind the piano and had the following realistic primitive dialogue with the ones who were trapped:

People outside the cave (in unison): You guys inside! Push hard on the rock!

People inside the cave (in unison): Okay!

This is followed by an absolutely stunning bit of staging as the Cave People all push on the giant rock and, as if by magic, it rises straight up in the air. Believe me when I tell you that there was not a dry set of underwear in the audience at this point.

The Animals Running By theme is then reintroduced as the dreaded saber-toothed tiger bonks its way back on stage, and the Cave People stab it about 50,000 times with their spears until it is, in the words of the narrator, "totally dead." The theme of Getting Everybody Back On Stage is then established as the Cave People invite the deer and the woolly rhinoceroses to help them eat the tiger. In the cheerful words of the narrator: "They all sat down, roasted him, ripped him apart and had a delicious meal." The concept of the meal being delicious was dramatically reinforced by having the Cave People say: "Yummy!" And: "This is a delicious meal!" Of course, the woolly rhinoceroses, being unable to speak, could only pat their stomachs in a satisfied manner, but they did this in such a convincing and moving way that even veteran critics wanted to rush right up and give them a great big hug.