Strong monologues, powerful acting in effective Vagina

by Beacon Staff • March 25, 2009

If I told you that iThe Vagina Monologues/i was being performed on the Emerson campus, chances are you wouldn't think twice about it. Eve Ensler's famous theater piece has become a sort of staple of the Emerson community.

Blunt, sexually aggressive and consistently shocking, its liberating message about embracing female genitalia has, for years now, been staged by different student groups, each one equipped with a dozen eager actresses and a handful of vagina paraphernalia (e.g. shirts, bands, anatomically graphic lollipops).

This week, iMonologues/i is being put on yet again, for the third time by Kappa Gamma Chi (as part of Take back the Night, a program dedicated to domestic violence awareness).

It is being performed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Washington Ave in Downtown Crossing on March 26 (the same place as last year's show) and is still equipped with vanilla and chocolate flavored vagina pops in the lobby.

Personally, I've always found the buzz surrounding the annual iVagina/i show to be a bit obnoxious and in-your-face. At a school like Emerson, where a slogan like "Gay by May!" and a song like "Single Ladies" spread like wildfire throughout Boylston Street every day, it isn't difficult to associate Eve Ensler's feminist play with the rest of Emerson's high-pitched, over-the-top flamboyance. I'm all for sexual and personal liberation, but Emerson's student body has always pushed this button a bit too far. The concept of open-mindedness is more like a superficial act at this school than an actual, personal reality.

That said, Kappa Gamma Chi's production of Ensler's play turns out to be sincere and full of powerful and authentic ideas.

Directed by freshman Landry Allbright and starring 13 undergraduate actresses, this particular show, aside from its questionable paraphernalia, moves beyond flashy flamboyance and actually attempts to unearth questions of female sexuality and the ever-present issues of rape, misogyny and personal expression.

The play itself is divided into fourteen monologues, each taken from actual interviews from a variety of different women.

The subject for each is about the relationship each woman has with-you guessed it-her vagina. Sometimes it's quite literal, like in the orgasm-infused iThe Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy/i.

Other times, the play unearths deeper stigmas and emotions relating to the difficulties of embracing and celebrating femininity, whatever that may mean to each respective woman.

One of the most moving pieces, iThe Flood/i, performed by Kathleen Crosby, explores how childhood and adolescent traumas can sever a woman's relationship with her sexual desires.

Another piece, titled iThey Beat the Girl out of My Boy/i, goes even deeper in its investigation of sexual orientation and what it means to be a man trapped in a woman's body.

Each actress brings a great mixture of power and vulnerability into their separate performances which, in turn, makes the iThe Vagina Monologues/i feel like a fluid and coherent piece rather than a fragmented set of monologues.

The women sit or stand comfortably on stage in between their performances, listening to the monologues and reacting as if they've heard them for the first time.

It's an effective directoral choice by Allbright because it allows the audience to comfortably ease themselves into each story, even ones as shocking as iReclaiming Cunt/i.

By the end of the show, one will be hard-pressed not to feel moved and more enlightened about the female identity and all its many insights and struggles.

Yes, the tampon section may make the unaccustomed male squirm in his seat, but there is no question that Kappa Gamma Chi's production effectively captures the unspoken truths of Ensler's theatre piece.

This is an effective and moving show that should be seen come Thursday night (it plays twice: once at 7 and again at 9), even if that means avoiding the creepy vagina lollipops upon entering the theater.

Emerson College may have a woefully misguided outlook towards emotional and sexual liberation, but this production of iThe Vagina Monologues/i is a certain exception to the rule.

It'll make you think and it will certainly change your perception (both literally and metaphorically) on the female anatomy.