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Women and their expectations; men and their shortcomings. Writer and performer Robert Dubac uses an elaborate allegory to repackage this well-worn material into The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?, now at the Century Theatre.

The show's composition is commendable, making use of a number of layers and frameworks. The reality facing Robert the character is that his fiancée has asked for two weeks' time apart; with their relationship clearly in jeopardy, he needs to determine what she wants to hear before she calls. On stage, as the final minutes of the two weeks run out, Dubac reveals an inner struggle between the left and right hemispheres of the brain (oversimplified as the "male" and "female" halves) as he attempts to tap into his feminine side. He also portrays a handful of characters, all men from Robert's past, to help explain the origins of his flawed understanding of women.

Robert attempts to explore what exactly his fiancée wants by venturing into the realm of female logic — an oxymoron to men, one he describes as comparable to a woman's opinion of the phrase male intellect. Luckily, these black and white generalizations are forgivable because of the writer's attention to detail and the discoveries they afford him. The set has two distinct halves, one cluttered with objects and the other a blank slate. The female right-brain backdrop mimics gently rippling fabric, whereas its counterpoint on the male side has rigid stripes; details like these are indicative of Dubac's commitment to the framework, as is the blocking in which Robert becomes more narrow-minded the further he ventures into the male left-brain half of the stage. This material may not be new, but Dubac delivers a slew of witty quips and exhibits precision timing, establishing a number of concepts and gestures as touchstones that earn recurring laughs through well-placed callbacks. Production manager Michael Rollin deftly keeps up with the numerous lighting and sound cues that give unique identities to Dubac's five characters, which are highly stereotypical but nevertheless show an impressive range. Notably, the female perspective isn't given a corporeal form, but appears in pulsing pink light and recorded voiceover, like a benevolent lady HAL.

It's an understatement to say that every word and movement has been clearly thought out. Rather, Dubac's performance has a slick quality that comes from both ownership of the material and years of repetition. The performance is so refined that his few departures from the script stuck out awkwardly. One long tangent about religion and Facebook, although very good in its own right, felt like the performer was using this opportunity to try out new stand-up material, and it took some visible wheel-spinning to get comfortably back into the show at hand. Moreover, Dubac is prepared for the possibility of latecomers with a prerecorded song that's both too long and goofily cruel; later in the performance I attended, he responded to a sound in the audience by evilly — but hopefully — intoning, "Was that a cell phone?" These responses to common etiquette breaches may be clever, but they don't add anything to the show itself.

The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron? is a very funny play, polished to a shine by an able storyteller. There's some acidity to the proceedings that was notably absent in the less-barbed Defending the Caveman; Dubac hides behind the procession of Chauvinists I Have Known, but prevailing attitudes about women aren't necessarily favorable. However, this production is no meaner than a lot of stand-up comedy, and women in the audience are unlikely to be put off by the material or its presentation. Of the two Century shows currently in rotation, Male Intellect may have less heart, but it's better composed, and, true to expectations, the acerbic approach packs more laughs.


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