Boston's Alternative Source!

[Theater reviews]

State of the Art
More Vagina

Tennessee Williams thought the fairer sex’s genitals looked like “a dyin’ orchid.” But even he probably would have attested to the flower power of The Vagina Monologues. Eve Ensler’s raucous pæan to female sexuality has returned to the Wilbur Theatre following a sold-out two-week run in March. Ensler herself performed the piece back then; this time around, its defiant whoops and well-simulated moans are being delivered by the gutsy triumvirate of Robin Givens, Debi Mazar, and Rosie Perez. Givens and Perez have done previous duty in the New York and Los Angeles productions. Mazar is, in Vagina parlance, “a virgin.”

Meeting the press with producer David Stone, the three actresses, looking a bit like multi-ethnic Barbies, are cheerleaders for the production — as well as for the V-Day Fund, which distributes money to organizations that work to end violence against women and to which $10 of every full-price ticket goes. Oscar-nominated for Fearless, the irrepressible Perez admits that when she made her stage debut in the Monologues, in 1998, she “was just thinking about myself. I was telling the press, ‘Yes, it’s for women, it’s for women,’ but I was thinking, ‘How do I look?’ Then when you get out there on the stage and you see women and men, young and old, absorbing what you’re saying, you understand the politics. You understand why you’re there. For me, I always wanted to make a difference in the world, and doing a commercial movie doesn’t cut it. But when you do something like this, it cuts it like a knife.”

In Givens’s household, enthusiasm for the show has trickled down to the actress’s seven-year-old son. He likes to wear her Vagina Monologues baseball cap — though she draws the line at allowing him to wear it to Mass.

“Hey,” Mazar breaks in, “doesn’t it say ‘Cunt’ on the other side?”

And it’s then that you realize a Vagina Monologues press conference isn’t like most press conferences. Like the show itself, which was culled by Ensler from interviews with more than 200 women and is chock full of humor, poignancy, and rallying cries, it is not for the squeamish. Producer Stone calls attention to the way in which Monologues has “demystified” the word that’s the jewel of its title. Even with the material split three ways, each of the actresses gets to say that word a lot — along with every other name for the female orifice imaginable.

Of course, there’s more to carrying off The Vagina Monologues than liberating language. In the hands of Givens, Mazar, and Perez, the show is neither as tightly performed nor as deeply felt as when Ensler does it. And the three women, spread across the stage on the trademark red-upholstered high chairs, get so close to their boom mikes that much of the material is marred by amplification and popping sibilants.

But each performer has her bravura moments. Givens, who can barely stay in her seat, gives voice to the tax lawyer turned pleasurer of women, who lets loose some two dozen differentiated and highly convincing orgasmic moans. The elegant-looking Mazar is very funny as “My Angry Vagina,” which is pissed off about intrusions ranging from tampons to thongs. And Perez, holding on for the most part to the accent of a Southern woman of color (though the New Yawk Latina does sneak in), brings warmth to a woman who finally learns to love her much-abused “coochi snorcher.” As for the enthusiastic audience, it adores The Vagina Monologues. I’ve never heard a prick get so much applause.

The Vagina Monologues is at the Wilbur Theatre through May 20; it will return May 29 through June 10 with a new cast that hadn’t been announced at press time. Tickets are $25 to $65; call (617) 931-2787.

Issue Date: May 17-24, 2001