By D. A. Blackburn
Regular readers of this space may have noticed an unusual phenomenon over the last two weeks: the fact that there are currently three shows playing between The Gem and Century Theatres (which share just one building in the heart of Downtown Detroit). Moreover, one might also have noticed that two of the three, “Robert Dubac’s The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?” and “Defending the Caveman,” play with battle-of-the-sexes themes. And, if you continue reading this review, you’ll probably realize that all three — “The Marvelous Wonderettes” being the third — have received solid praise from EncoreMichigan/Between The Lines critics.
“Robert Dubac’s The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?” first took to the stage some 10 years ago, and has since spawned a sequel (2006), but despite its age the work felt entirely fresh opening night at The Century. This is a credit to its writer, who not only crafted a script full of timelessly relevant humor, but also performs all six roles in the 90-minute, single-act romp.
Despite its title, the play is not a male-bashing rant or a feminist manifesto brought to the stage. Rather, it is a savvy exploration of the differences between men and women, and a sharply funny look at the inner-workings of the male mind. Humor is directed at both genders in equal doses, as evidenced cleanly in Dubac’s assertion that “male intellect” is no more an oxymoron than “female logic.”
The play is also surprisingly intimate, even by the standards of the one man show. “Intellect” feels far more like a conversation between Dubac and his audience than a staged comedic play. The work centers around Bobby, a recently dumped “average Joe” grappling with the question of where it all went wrong, and riffing with the audience like a stand-up comedian. It’s only when Dubac shifts into his chauvinistic alter-egos, the characters that have shaped Bobby’s life, that the fourth wall comes up and the work takes on a more conventional dynamic.
While this sounds as though it might make for awkward, unbalanced theater, it doesn’t. Dubac shifts from character to character and back again with an elegant ease, giving each a wholly unique persona, voice and appearance. These unique characters — ranging from a suave Frenchman to an all American bad boy and a feeble, aged fisherman — illustrate the exceptional depth of Dubac’s talents, and better still, they consistently earn bursts of laughter from the audience.
“Intellect’s” sets are a nice fit for the relatively small stage of The Century Theatre, and the show also earns good marks for excellent props, which help to drive the script’s humor. The show’s lighting and sound designs are also nice and efficient.
The month of February has been a good one for The Gem and Century Theatres, and with three excellent offerings running at least through March, it’s likely to be a memorable stretch for their patrons. The only challenge may be finding time to fit so many shows onto the social calendar.
‘Robert Dubac’s The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?’
The Century Theatre, 333 Madison St., Detroit. Wednesday-Sunday through March 28; alternates every other week with “Defending the Caveman.” $34.50. 313-963-9800. http://www.gemtheatre.com.