"I'm more sensual and romantic than sexual," 50-something author Evelyn Duboff says.
One might assume otherwise upon viewing "Fools in Love," a theatrical performance of 10 Duboff short stories about her colorful (and sometimes off-color) love life.
In her racy, witty tales -- which open Sunday at the Odyssey Theatre -- her alter-egos often pursue experience rather than relationships, kicking more than one suitor to the curb. One character feels liberated as she provocatively dances at a Halloween party, ogled by men. Another lies about seducing a friend's intense, Cuban ex. ("There is so much to learn in this world," Carlos gushes. "I wanted to learn more about Carlos," the character notes.)
A third stalks a boyfriend to see if he is cheating, but is amused when she catches him with a plump blonde who exclaims, "Danny boy, you slay me, baby!"
Yet another protagonist gasps upon viewing a 6-foot-4 hunk in a crowded Beverly Hills cafe: "One head across the room rose inches above the others," she says, double entendre intended.
On a recent sultry afternoon, Duboff smiles as actress Andrea Walker describes her motivation for that scene.
"It's holy s----, this guy is hot," Walker says. "I'm treading the fine line between being crude and wanting to get laid."
During a rehearsal break, the author says she was more sedate while meeting that hunk (a magician with a Ferrari), and admits amping up the sexual and comic content of her stories. But she's hardly prudish in the bedroom, and she loves when the actresses wonder about her sex life: "I tell them, 'Good, keep wondering,'" she says. Duboff enjoys remaining mysterious -- and she relishes the surprise people express when they meet her in person.
Rather than a sex goddess reminiscent of Samantha, the leggy, lascivious commitmentphobe from "Sex and the City," the author is petite, shy, endearing, even girlish, wearing a funny lavender hat over close-cropped brown hair. She blushes, giggles and claps her small hands, pink nail polish flashing, while describing aspects of her love life.
"If you didn't know Evelyn, you'd think she was a wild woman," "Fools" director Whitney Rydbeck says.
In the Odyssey's green room, Duboff demurely explains that she's actually a nice Jewish girl from a kosher home in Montreal, where her grandmother served in a leadership position at their traditional synagogue. In that community, the life proscribed for Jewish women included "going steady" at 15, marrying at 17 or 18, immediately starting a family and never, ever divorcing. But young Evelyn was a free spirit (albeit a quiet one) who didn't want a future as balabusta-for-life.
When she discussed her dream of pursuing the arts, her mother begged her to "get married first." She didn't listen. Like one character in "Fools," she declined to wed the lanky boyfriend who proposed to her at age 15. She was relieved when her family moved to Los Angeles that same year, because "I was now free to just be myself and not feel I had to marry so young," she says.
Alarmed by her single status, Duboff's father clandestinely placed a Jewish Journal personal ad in her name some years ago.
"He gave me the stack of responses like a gift," she recalls, tenderly. "But I had lots of boyfriends, so I thought 'What made him think I needed these?'"
While Duboff has never married, she is content to have spent her adult life modeling, acting, painting, working as a court reporter -- and writing slice-of-life stories about her beaus.
One was a Jewish-Hungarian doctor she was too shy to approach in a Montreal restaurant during a visit home decades ago. Duboff was shocked, a few days later, to meet him on a blind date: "The next time I see you, I'll never let you go," he said, after their torrid 10-day romance. "He'd then call me every Saturday morning, and I'd wake up to the paradise of his voice -- with that accent, can you imagine?" Duboff recalls with a sigh.
She says she was crushed when he dropped a bombshell several months later: Although he very much loved Duboff, he was obliged to marry someone else for reasons beyond his control (the author declines to offer details).
Perhaps she never married because he was "The One," she says; she nods at the suggestion that perhaps she used that fantasy relationship to ensure she never had to marry anyone at all. Duboff has never experienced psychotherapy, so the best explanation she can offer is: "There's so much in life to explore, if you're with just one person, it can prevent that."
Even so, she turned her Hungarian into a poignant but funny story, "Darling," which caught the eye of spoken-word artist Sally Shore in 2000. Shore performed the piece at her New Short Fiction Series, where it became a Los Angeles Times pick. More staged readings followed at the NoHo Theatre & Arts Festival ("Fools" is the first full-scale production of Duboff's work).
"Evelyn's writing is short fiction's answer to 'Sex and the City,'" Shore says. "I love her women and their sexuality and their humor."
Walker agrees, adding that she enjoys how unapologetic the characters are about sex.
"I don't have a spotty past by any means, but I have a lot of anecdotes, and some people think women with experience are sluts," Walker says. "But I say, 'No, we live our lives and we live them colorfully and unashamedly.'"
That's exactly how Duboff intends to continue her journey.
"I'm sure if I met the right person I'd have loved that, too," she says. "But I love my life, and I love meeting different people and having stories to write."
"Fools" opens Sunday at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. For tickets and information, call (310) 477-2055.
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