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Maryland grad pokes fun at sex roles in cabaret show


Being a woman is no laughing matter.

But, says Karen Loftus, it helps if you have a sense of humor about it.

And if you have a very keen sense of humor, you might just build a two-woman show around the subject, title it "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's, Man's World," and travel from city to city poking fun at men and women and the maddening state of affairs between the two.

Which is exactly what University of Maryland graduate Karen Loftus and her partner, Joan Ranquet, have done. Their one-hour show makes its Baltimore premiere at Winchester's Comedy Club tomorrow at 8 p.m. (There's another performance Saturday at 7 p.m.)

Through their characters -- an uptight talk show host and an insecure hotel waitress who meet when the latter begins selling celebrity secrets to the former -- they explore the battle of the sexes circa 1992, touching on such thorny issues as sexual harassment and job discrimination.

The show is largely autobiographical, and much of the material was gathered while the women worked together at a Los Angeles hotel. But more serious events -- like the Clarence Thomas hearings and the William Kennedy Smith rape trial -- also fueled their desire to write and produce a show that said something about gender relations.

"You'd end up having a heart attack if you stayed mad about everything that's happened to women," says Ms. Ranquet, 30, who lives in Los Angeles. "The show is our way of venting and having a voice."

Playing comedy clubs is particularly tough for them since audiences often expect constant patter and punch lines. They admit to being relieved when women outnumber men -- as they often do -- in the crowd.

"Men always ask, 'Is this a male-bashing piece?' It's not. It's about women taking responsibility by doing something," says Ms. Loftus, 28, who also lives in Los Angeles.

After graduating from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1986 with a business degree, she began study acting in New York. "Sometimes I'd think, 'Why in the hell did I get a business degree?'" she recalls. But now as she deals with promoters and bookers and accountants, the experience has come in handy.

It didn't, however, prepare her for how a blue-eyed blond would be perceived by Hollywood.

For proof of that, she mentions a few of her recent roles: She played "a cocktail waitress in a tight, purple Lycra dress" during a "Columbo" episode and "a bimbo at the beach in a yellow bathing suit" in "The Wonder Years."

She got a reprieve when she formed her own all-woman comedtroupe, Gal-O-Rama, which played L.A. comedy clubs. But she left the group after becoming involved in her current show.

After Baltimore, the women will take the show to Washington, New York and perhaps even Europe. Despite performing twice a week, they never tire of the material.

Says Ms. Loftus, "We could keep going with it forever and forever."

'Man's World'

"It's a Man's, Man's, Man's, Man's World," a two-woman cabaret show, will have its Baltimore premiere at Winchester's Comedy Club, 102 Water St., tomorrow at 8 p.m. The show will also be performed on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call (410) 576-8558.

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