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“Vagina Monologues” is sparking dialogue before it opens

February 2, 2009 - Andy Gray
A letter to the editor Sunday protesting the staging of “The Vagina Monologues” at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Packard Music Hall in Warren has sparked an outpouring of response on the Tribune Chronicle’s Web site.

More than 100 comments to the letter could be found on the Web site as of Monday morning, and many asked questions about the exact content of the show.

Below is a review I wrote in 2002 when it was staged in Cleveland, which should provide a little more information about the content for those unfamiliar with the play.

I don’t have a problem with the show, but I also acknowledge that its content isn’t for everyone. But the last time I checked, the Packard Music Hall Foundation wasn’t planning to shout Eve Ensler’s script from the South Lawn Band Shell within earshot of anyone who passes by. Tickets are $10 (with proceeds benefiting Someplace Safe), so the only people who will hear the word used repeatedly on Feb. 19 are those who make a conscious choice and open their wallets to do so.

Folks are free to go see “The Vagina Monologues,” and they are free to stay home and see it as a sign of the moral disintegration of the country. That’s the kind of freedom that makes me feel patriotic.

And for those who want to support the show and Someplace Safe, tickets are available at the Packard box office and by calling 330-841-2931. And group rates are available.

By ANDY GRAY

Tribune Chronicle

CLEVELAND—“No matter how many times you say it, it doesn't sound like a word you want to say.”

The word Margot Kidder is talking about is “vagina,” and they say it plenty in “The Vagina Monologues,” a celebration and examination of the most intimate of places. The show began a two-week run Tuesday at the Ohio Theatre.

Playwright Eve Ensler created the show after interviewing more than 200 women about their bodies. Since its Off-Broadway run began in 1999, “The Vagina Monologues” has been staged in more than 140 U.S. and Canadian cities and more than 40 countries.

Granted, only someone who has had to put their feet in the stirrups of a gynecological exam will fully appreciate some of the material, but the show is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching for all audiences, regardless of their chromosomal makeup.

Kidder, best known as Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve's “Superman,” is only doing the first week of the Cleveland run (WCPN-FM radio personality Dee Perry replaces her the second week). Catch her if you can, but don't skip the show if you can't make it the first week. Her co- stars, Starla Bensford and Kristen Lee Kelly, are every bit as good, if not better.

The staging is simple--three chairs, three end tables, three microphones and three similarly dressed performers (red tops, black skirt or pants and bare feet). Subtle lighting shifts are used for dramatic effect, but everything is designed to keep the focus on the performers and the words.

Fun facts and lists culled from the interviews (nicknames for the vagina, what it would say if it could talk) are interspersed among longer monologues that reflect a single interview or a composite.

Kidder gets the most stage time in the current production and is most powerful in relating the story of a Muslim woman who was raped repeatedly during the war in Bosnia. Her other stories were much lighter in tone, particularly a tale of sex worker and her quest for the moan. Kidder has such a distinctive voice -- a hoarse rasp that make Debra Winger sound like Audrey Hepburn -- that there was less variation in her characters than those of Bensford and Kelly.

Bensford delivered the single funniest monologue as a woman angry about everything from tampons and feminine hygiene products to duck-bill-shaped medical instruments. She also closed the show with a monologue from Ensler written after she witnessed her granddaughter give birth.

Kelly also was funny as a prim, older New Englander who experiences a sexual awakening at a vagina workshop and as a woman who decides to reclaim the most hated of slang terms for a woman's body parts. Before she's finished, she's leading the audience in a chant of the word. Obviously, this show isn't for everyone. Those unwilling to drop their inhibitions probably aren't ready to hear a non-stop 90-minute dissertation on the vagina.

But judging from the standing ovation opening night, plenty of people are.

 
 

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