Bad Advice

Robert Dubac's heralded one-man show is not autobiographical--nor is it anti-male, despite the title

Here comes Robert Dubac. Call him Bobby, and have a beer with him. He's just a regular guy with a regular-guy problem: The girl of his dreams, to whom he has just proposed, has dumped him. Let Bobby tell you all about where he went wrong, because in the process, he might just figure out an answer to the question that bedeviled Sigmund Freud: What do women want?

Oh, Bobby's had plenty of advice on that subject, and maybe that's where he made his mistake--listening to that advice. Consider the sources. There was the Colonel, who told him that women prefer the honest approach, so admit that as a man, you're a bonehead. Or Jean-Michel, who stressed communication, any communication, as long as it came with a sexy accent.

These and other dubious advisers hold forth in Dubac's one-man show, The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? It's the latest offering from Broadway in Tucson.

The Male Intellect approaches town benefiting from good word-of-mouth. "It's not a male-bashing show at all," Dubac insists. "There's something for everyone. We make fun of men in the title so we can lure women in and make fun of them, too. If I were to name the show Female Logic: An Oxymoron, I'd get picketed. I think these days, it's easier for men to laugh at themselves than for women to laugh at themselves. Unless we trick them into it."

Dubac warns that although the central character (of six) that he plays is named Bobby, Bobby isn't Robert Dubac. Indeed, Dubac had recently begun his own happy marriage when he was writing the show. And as for the five male mentors who give Bobby their questionable advice, they correspond more to women who've tried to explain everything to Dubac.

So, Dubac says, both men and women in his audiences easily buy into the show. "When women see me do these characters," he says, "they tell me, 'I dated every one of those guys.' And men tell me, 'I've been every one of those guys.' I guess each character represents part of a maturation process we all go through."

Besides, Dubac hates the idea of basing a show on the wonderful world of himself. "That's cheating, getting up there and self-flagellating about your own life," he insists. "This should be something you could have gone through, not me."

Dubac's television credits, going back into the 1980s, include appearances on Diff'rent Strokes, Loving, Growing Pains and Life Goes On. He's been in a few movies, but spent most of his time on stage. So if you don't recognize him, that's OK; it makes him seem even more of a regular guy.

He has trouble pinning down exactly what sort of show The Male Intellect is. "It's a combination of theater and performance art and standup comedy," he says. "And because of that, it attracts a pretty broad audience. People who grew up going to comedy clubs and rock concerts are used to someone talking to them from the stage and including them in the performance, whereas they aren't so comfortable with that artificial fourth wall of the theater. So I stand there and include them in the show, talking straight at them, asking for their help, and making them the other character in the play. That creates a fan base. People come back a couple of years later to see it again. So the show has changed over the seven years I've done it. Every time, I do some favorite hits, plus some new material."

Dubac says that the show leans more toward traditional theater insofar as it has a clear structure with a payoff at the end, rather than being a string of jokes. Yet weaving jokes appropriately into the texture is critical to him.

"If you do a one-person show and nobody's laughing," he says, "then it's just a lecture. Here, you have people laughing at a topic, and watching this guy figuring out what women want and learning something about himself as a byproduct. When you have the comedy centered around a theme like this, you walk away with something more valuable, because you've gone through a more complicated process as an audience member. With theater like this, you get richer experience than with television or movies. I don't think you'd watch an episode of Who's the Boss? and go away with any intrinsic value.

"But you're fighting an uphill battle, trying to put meaning into entertainment without anybody knowing it's there."

Dubac stresses that men should not be put off by his title. "I do figure out what women want while drinking a beer, which is a plus for men in the audience," he says. "And it has two words that will assure men of a good time in the theater: no intermission. Ninety minutes, and you're in and out with the answer to what women want. What more could you ask for in life? Or at least in Tucson?"

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