Women are angels, men are pigs. In the hands of puzzled male comedians, this broad thesis inevitably leads to theories about broads--oops, can't say that. Sorry, but what do you expect from a pig?
That's the way the battle of the sexes is lining up at the Warner Theatre this week in Robert Dubac's "The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?" To say that this one-man show (essentially an extended stand-up routine) is riddled with gender stereotypes doesn't go far enough. The show depends on stereotypes. Very old stereotypes. Exploits them for all they're worth, and then some. It's one big cliche that could have been performed 25 years ago as easily as today.
Have male-female relations come nowhere in the past quarter-century, now that we've reached the age of the female secretary of state and sensitive New Age guys? Naaah. Men are pigs, argues Dubac, an amiable, befuddled teddy bear of a guy who really, really wants to understand why his fiancee left him two weeks ago. If he can figure it all out, maybe he can salvage the relationship when she calls at the end of the show's 90 minutes. If she calls.
So, armed with books, beer and a bisected stage that is supposed to resemble his brain (the guy side a junk heap, the gal side neat as a pin), Dubac dives in. Why is he a pig? Because, as it says on the chalkboard where he tallies his demerits, he has male sexual equipment.
And women are angels. Which means they are mysterious. Which is why their book of rules is gigantic and full of blank pages (unwritten, ever-changeable rules, Dubac says, beginning to pull out his hair).
Dubac is working in a very old comic tradition, of course; Mark Twain once applied this shtick to Adam and Eve. But the one-man show about a self-flagellating, incurable guy trying to come to grips with the riddles of women seems to be a new genre in the theater. As far as I know, Rob Becker arrived first, with his "Defending the Caveman"--a funny show, in part, because of Becker's archetypal "guy" persona (a stubble-faced, beer-drinking grunt wielding a remote control from his stone throne in a cave).
Dubac, on the other hand, comes across like an actor, and his act seems pretty much like a knockoff of "Caveman." Like Becker, he's very offhanded and casual, a sensitive, self-deprecating, nonthreatening persona being key to the success of these shows. Dubac creates a small gallery of male characters representing the chauvinistic voices embedded in his brain--like the Colonel, a swaggering, gimpy figure who proudly announces up front that he is, um, a vulgar word that is synonymous with "unlikable fellow." It's no surprise to learn that a woman gave him his limp.
Then there's Jean-Michel, a Frenchman who thinks speaking French is cool enough to get him by with women. And Fast Eddie, who looks like Fonzie and sounds like Ron Howard doing a Jack Nicholson impersonation. Miraculously, these characters teach Dubac the things women really want: honesty, communication, passion, sensitivity, blah, blah, blah. Oops--I mean, what a valuable revelation!
All this would be really great if it were funny, but it's hard to laugh when you can see the jokes coming a mile away. It's also a drag to sit through 90 minutes of cliches, no matter how accurate our psychologists and self-help gurus insist these basic gender differences are. The most imaginative thing in the show is Jean-Michel's peculiar notion that women should be as small as cigarettes (mind you, I'm not saying this is a good idea), and the funniest thing all night is the way Dubac wiggles cigarettes in his ears in rhythm with "Dueling Banjos." Nothing else in "The Male Intellect" is half as surprising as that.
The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? Written and performed by Robert Dubac. Through Sunday at the Warner Theatre. Call 202-432-SEAT or 703-573-SEAT.
CAPTION: Robert Dubac revisits old stereotypes in "Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?"