by David Lally · March 30, 2015
About halfway through The Male Intellect – An Oxymoron?, I witnessed something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It not only made an already funny show funnier, but once again renewed my respect and admiration for a skilled performer.
An audience member got up to leave the theatre to go to the bathroom during the performance. Comedian Robert Dubac, who wrote and performs the show, had his back turned upstage, in character as Ronnie Cabrezzi, from the Bronx. Ronnie loves women, and was teaching the main character, Bobby, a lesson about sensitivity. As the audience member was about to go out the door, Ronnie turned around and caught him leaving.
Now I have seen performers briefly exchange a quip or two with an audience member or maybe go off on them a bit and make reference to specific audience members throughout a show (watch any Dame Edna performance for a lesson on how to do this brilliantly) but comedian Robert Dubac, went off, in character, without missing a beat. When the audience member finally left, Dubac then turned to the audience, still in character, and did a complete improvisational set on how now he feels he has to stop the lesson and wait for the audience member to come back from the bathroom. So Ronnie started to grill his wife, who let it be known her husband’s name was Hamilton and that he works as an economist, and that they have been married for five years. He kept going for a good five minutes before Hamilton returned. This was no stopping the show for some cheap laughs. This was like getting extra scenes included in the price of your ticket. Imagine Hamilton’s surprise to come back to find Ronnie and us, the audience, had been waiting for him to return and knew everything about him. It was an unexpected ten minute sustained laugh riot.
Now I can’t guarantee something like that will happen if you go to see this very smart, funny and aware show, but that is the beauty of it. You won’t know unless you go because Dubac has not only crafted a great show, but he is such a polished performer that he can easily go in and out of the text of the play to make the show a truly interactive experience.
The set-up is Bobby’s girlfriend has asked to take a two week break after Bobby inadvertently can’t remember his girlfriend’s brother’s name or the name of her cat. Basically, Bobby is a guy, who doesn’t remember those things because he has the male intellect. He worries about more important stuff. Through trying to figure out what this all means for him and what women want, Bobby gets at some plain truths through the help of his friends, who teach him about what women are looking for: honesty, sensitivity, passion, a sense of humor and sincerity.
It’s a clever meld of play combined with stand up. And the transformations in and out of the five characters are seamless. There’s The Colonel, who has gone from fighting in the army to fighting the battle of the sexes, who teaches Bobby about honesty. Jean-Michel, the philosophy-studying foreign exchange student, whose answers, though quite cryptic, knows that you must be sincere. Fast Eddie talks about passion after having his heart broken once. He now carries an air of machismo around that you can cut with a knife. Old Mr. Linger, who lives in a retirement home and is allowed to go out daily to fish, talks about having a sense of humor, and the afore-mentioned Ronnie Cabrezzi. Each has some wisdom about the male intellect to impart to Bobby. What happens throughout is Bobby almost has to play detective to figure out collectively what women want. After all, he is operating mostly on the left side of his brain (the masculine side) but wants to understand the right side (the feminine one).
Dubac's subject matter may not seem revelatory, and may even be a bit dated to anyone under 35, with references that harken back to the 70s and 80s. But what keeps the show fresh is Dubac’s boundless energy, comic timing and seamless transitions from character to character.
At the end of the show, Dubac does something else I have not seen in any other show: a Q & A with his audience. An affable performer, to be sure, I will definitely check out some of his other shows as The Male Intellect is running in rep with another Dubac show, The Book Of Moron.