Ensler's universally celebrated show -- based on more than 100 interviews with women (gay, straight, white, black, young, old) who discuss their sexuality, sexual experiences, and, yes, their vaginas -- has been criticized by some as a form of anti-male, staged penis envy. The hype surrounding the work prompted Dean C. Dauw, sex therapist and ex-Catholic priest, to erect his retort. Penis' Responses to The Vagina Monologues makes its world debut in South Florida at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art Auditorium through July 1, with other engagements slated for New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Freud will forever be associated with penis envy. Dauw, perhaps, will be known for his envious penis. "I saw The Vagina Monologues over a year ago at the Apollo Theater in Chicago, and I walked out thinking, I can do better than this," notes Dauw, who then set out to outdo the vagina, so to speak. Collaborating with Jane Doe, a journalist and performance artist he has known for more than fifteen years, he wrote the play, starring -- you guessed it -- Dauw and Doe. Dauw portrays Dr. Love, a sex therapist, and both he and Doe depict a variety of characters. A few walk-on parts showcase other actors. While Penis' Responses clearly is a theatrical rebuttal to Ensler's work, the producers intend it to be a self-contained piece that can be enjoyed by those who haven't seen the production named for female genitalia. "Our play is much funnier, and it shows a male and female point of view," Dauw explains. Also unlike the Vagina's minimalist set, Dauw's play will incorporate lights, props, and music.
Whereas Ensler's piece has made her somewhat of an authority on the fairer sex, Dauw may be uniquely qualified to speak about the firmer one. A Roman Catholic priest from 1959 to 1965, Dauw listened to endless accounts of sexual misery and frustration. He left the priesthood and founded the first sex-therapy clinic in Chicago 36 years ago. Since then he has published sixteen books on self-esteem and sexual therapy, including two on sexual-surrogate therapy.
Rebuttal or ridicule, Penis' Responses to The Vagina Monologues offers another point of view on a topic no one tires of discussing: sex.