Getting Personal: ‘The Vagina Monologues’ combines Humor and Heart

A mature dialogue for mature women.
A mature dialogue for mature women. // Samantha Gardner

I have to admit that there is a lot I do not know about vaginas.

To be honest, I didn’t think there was that much to know. I never had the feminist impulse to inquire about vaginas or to consider what my vagina means to me. I never really said the word aloud. My conservatism probably made me an ideal audience member for “The Vagina Monologues,” because the show shoves itself in your face, bringing “vagina-shy” audience members face to face with the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of what’s down there. This all-female cast performance of the “The Vagina Monologues” forces audience members to confront questions about vaginas they never were willing to admit they wanted answers to. Each monologue is honest and overwhelming, and the accumulation of stories seems to aim to demonstrate that there is no shame in sharing your thoughts and experiences when it comes to our most intimate spaces.

Once the show begins, there is no escape.

I was drawn in because of the sincerity of the monologues. One was a heart-wrenching account of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a kind of extreme version of PMS, performed with such nuance that I actually remember the technical phrase “premenstrual dysphoric disorder.”

I was drawn in because of the round-table setup in Calhoun Cabaret, and the cast’s frequent interaction with the audience. They asked me personally how disgusted I was by yeast infections, and even forced me to say the word “cunt” loudly and proudly, twice.

I was drawn in because, at one point there was a girl lying on her back, demonstrating the different styles of sex moans. I could neither look away nor contain my laughter, especially when she got to the college student’s sex moan — “ohhhh, I should be studying, ohhhh, I should be studying.”

And throughout the play, even when I was not about to laugh or cry or throw up in my mouth a little bit, I was impressed by the cast’s dynamic and poise. As one cast member explained, everyone working on this play chose to get involved because they consider these stories important.

This passion shows through the unashamed narrations of monologues. In addition to the content of the original play by Eve Ensler, cast members have included self-written, personal vagina monologues, blended seamlessly into the script. These supplemental monologues stay true to the core feminist message and they amplify the honesty and sincerity of the play as a whole.

The scripted and personal monologues also strike a good balance between humor and more serious topics. The play jumps from one girl’s candid confession that she has never been in love to a story of childhood sexual harassment, to an explanation of the logic behind masturbation — “you’re doing for yourself what a guy could do for you, which is not just a feminist yes, but a lifetime yes.”

The mixture of drama, tragedy, sex and humor makes the play thought-provoking, but not depressing, entertaining, but not trivial. The messages of this play are important.

“The Vagina Monologues” will be performed in the Calhoun Cabaret tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., and although there is no ticket price, donations collected at the shows will be sent to a domestic abuse center in New Haven. What’s not to like?

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