Play Review | ʻThe Vagina Monologuesʼ
What is there to say about the vagina? Apparently, a lot! When the actors have the stage, the things that pour out of their mouths can be profoundly humorous, unconditionally revealing and, at times, extremely unsettling.
As a supporter of women’s rights and a fan of women in general, this year’s “Vagina Monologues,” based on playwright Eve Ensler’s work, was a soul shaker that, for me, redefined women from head to right-below-the-waist.
Graduate student Elisa Niño directed and narrated this year’s production, the seventh year it has been presented at the university. Debbie Ann Pérez served as executive director and producer.
Held in the SET-B Lecture Hall, March 2 and 3’s performances included the interpretational efforts of 18 brave female students, role-playing across an episodic journey of previously documented “vagina interviews” that illustrate the interesting, the funny and the ugly truths of being a woman.
Niño’s 80-minute, Las Vegas-style take of the “Monologues” covered select women’s stories of their journeys to self-discovery and acceptance.
In between and during some acts, the performers took turns delivering fun facts and curious anecdotes such as euphemisms for vagina and the different kinds of intimate female moans.
The skits included testimonial excerpts on a wide range of subjects, from an innocent 6-year-old and a fanny-packing 72-year-old to a bi-curious teenager and a sexy Pittsburgh resident obsessed with reclaiming a derogatory term for the vagina, and from the overlooked rape victims of the Congo to a timid woman who finds herself through the eyes of “Bob” and his obsessive insight on the female body.
Spotlight performances included pieces titled “Hair,” performed by Mary Saldivar; “The Flood” or “La Inundación,” by Lillian Martinez; and, “My Angry Vagina,” by Elizabeth Charles and Julie Diaz.
It was obvious Saldivar was determined to deliver a convincing message in “Hair.” She let the cat out of the bag and boldly said from the get-go, “My first and only husband hated hair.”
She cleverly worked the stage as she retold her character’s futile attempts to salvage a marriage.
One of the most memorable of Saldivar’s scenes, in which she describes the aftermath of shaving to that of mosquito bites on fire, was in itself a cringing performance.
She concluded her act by iterating, “You have to love hair in order to love the vagina. You can’t pick the parts you want!”
Martinez’s well-delivered performance in “The Flood” was so convincing, it made one feel literally in the presence of an arthritic senior recounting the birth of the teenage trauma that kept her from reaching sexual maturity, much less exploring her “basement.”
Martinez’s voice and appearance were in check for the role of a senior, but her Spanish dictation was exceptionally clear and well-delivered.
Given the originality of the skit and the constant laughter from the full house on March 2, “The Flood” was the best single performance of the evening.
Several acts included multiple actors who lobbed lines of dialogue from one to another.
In their combined effort, Charles and Diaz performed a fiery piece enumerated with complaints over their characters’ undermined, tortured and angry vaginas.
Reluctant to give in to the patriarchal set standards and products made for women that greatly overlook delicateness, Charles and Diaz hurled tampons at the audience and loudly objected to cleansing sprays.
The show would have been incomplete without their smart-aleck, gut-busting rhetoric.
The overall gist of Niño’s choice monologues this year encapsulated much more than feminist activism, sensual scenes and uncomfortable subjects. It was about women and their right to be heard, no matter the topic.