Eve Ensler was worried about vaginas. So she traveled around the world asking women questions like “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?” and receiving answers like “A male tuxedo, sequins and tattoos.”
The result was “The Vagina Monologues,” a show that is short, funny and poignant. It comes to the Shubert Theater this week, under the direction of Abby Epstein, with a cast of three powerful women and a script that has elicited standing ovations across the country. The delight of “The Vagina Monologues” is that it makes a few scant attempts to be touching, but spends more of its time high and dry. Except when hilarious stories like “The Flood” are told.
“The Flood” is told by Amy Love, who delivers the monologue in the role of a Jewish spinster who had a disastrous vaginal experience on the night of her first kiss. It is emblematic of the entire show — it garners laughs, has a moment of sorrow and celebrates the joy, both physical and emotional, that women can gain from talking about their vaginas. Through their stories the audience shares in their reverence, curiosity and awe.
Amy Love, Tracy Leigh and Patricia Hearst star in the New Haven run of the “Monologues.” Love and Leigh are in the permanent cast, with Hearst as a guest star, and the contrast shows. This heiress to the Hearst fortune earned international notoriety after her famous kidnapping in 1974 by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army and her indoctrination by them. She was later pardoned by former President Bill Clinton. On stage she appeared slightly nervous and unable to nail the humor in the text as accurately as her stagemates, but the witty and endearing text was more than enough to keep her afloat.
Love and Leigh, however, took their monologues to brave new heights, both receiving wild applause after a series of faked orgasms. They adopted their characters brilliantly, like Leigh’s treatise on vaginal hair and Love’s story entitled “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy.” The most mesmerizing moment of the night was Love’s highly engaging tale of emerging childhood lesbian love, which managed to both lift the hearts of the audience and buckle their stomachs with laughter.
The tales were interspersed with “Vagina Facts,” both happy and sad, and silly lists of names for female genitalia. Some of the stories were sad and yearned to touch the hearts of the audience, but the most successful by far were the comical treatises on love, humility and self-discovery. In the end, the vagina is so glorified in a tale about birth that audience members lacking vaginas risked feeling left out or alienated — which is probably what prompted one publicity official to nervously ask the News: “You’re sending a male reviewer?”
“The Vagina Monologues” will doubtlessly provide a great break from studying this week for all those who go to see it. It is under two hours, it is funny and it is politely obscene — three elements of highly successful theater.
“The Vagina Monologues”
Sept. 18-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Discounted rush tickets are available for students two hours before the performance