Richardson — Funny thing about one-man shows on men and relationships (Defending the Caveman, et al.): people attend as couples or groups of women, rarely as men on their own. Such a shame. They could learn much from The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? For creator Robert Dubac doesn’t think of men as brutes that need to be tamed—more like broadened. No need to be a walking cliché when you contain multitudes. Dubac takes Walt Whitman’s expansive exhortation to heart with a half-dozen characters, all confounded by the perennial inquiry: What do women want? Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts hosted the enthusiastically received show last weekend.
The Male Intellect is a fascinating example of expanded stand-up, for the show never forgets you are there to laugh. But it goes well beyond a funny person on a stage. More complicated than a typical one-actor play, it boasts costume changes, difficult lighting and sound cues, and a tricked out stage with a three-dimensional backdrop and moveable scenery parts. Six characters and a soothing female voice that interacts with Dubac make it seem like it’s not a solo show. The result is a play with punchlines.
Bobby, the protagonist of The Male Intellect, is relieved of relationship duties by Julie, who was once his fiancée. He claims to be bewildered, claiming the sympathy vote, but a series of bonehead transgressions reveal as the play rolls on. Bobby figures that it’s the linear, male, right side of his brain run amok and skirmishes with the female left side, represented as a seductive voiceover. They duel over the fine line between women’s unwritten rules and Bobby just being unobservant and perhaps a little dense. What makes the character work is that he’s not a caricature; he’s just a guy. A guy ine need of better advice.
Instead, Bobby has learned from the Lake Loretta locals who he takes turns embodying, at times quite swiftly. Some of the five characters are wildly clichéd, like Fast Eddie, a Jersey type wise guy, and the even more Jersey Ronnie Cabrezzi, who is compelled to be overly macho by living in a household rich with estrogen. Both must be a blast to play and generate plentiful laughs. But there is hope with Ronnie and it’s fascinating to see glimpses of it. French swooner Jean-Michel seems shallow, offering a delightful obtuse confusion masquerading as depth.
It’s the older characters where Dubac shines, to whom he devotes the most affection. The fishing-obsessed Old Mr. Linger has some wisdom under his very high belt: “All women are perfect. You just have to find the one that is perfect for you.” His ramblings on death and mortality are gentle genius. The Colonel, a very decorated veteran, may proclaim that “all men are assholes,” yet he’s a decent guy. Slow to change but change (a bit) he does, The Colonel is an everyman just trying to keep up. Together the six characters make one hero on the journey of despair and redemption.
Men and women alike are at the receiving end of Dubac zingers. Never a bit of condescension or hostility in Dubac’s characters, but the points are many and find their target with humorous ease. The Male Intellect moves quickly without seeming overly scripted. The production is precise and the performance honest. It bodes well for his fall production at Eisemann, The Book of Moron, which comically eviscerates social and political hypocrisy. Use the codeword Moron for 20 percent off (good only until Sept. 5).
VIDEO One of the lessons a father passes on to his son is how to wiggle cigarettes in your ears. The bit Dueling Cigarettes helps conclude The Male Intellect.