“The Vagina Monologues” brings a taboo topic to New Haven’s Palace Theater

Kristen Daley

Maybe you’ve noticed the huge, attention-grabbing ad on the entertainment pages the past two weeks. Maybe you’ve even heard the radio spot for this phenomenon that people are trying not to talk about. With all propaganda aside, I took a step to see what the fuss was all about. I soon found myself in the center of the Palace Theatre audience, watching a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”
The creator of the “Vagina Monologues,” Eve Ensler, obviously went all out in her quest to make people comfortable with the “V-word.” And if the billboards didn’t do it, the performance definitely did.
A room full of women, and a surprising number of brave men, found themselves in stitches the evening of opening night on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Three female performers read accounts by women who have had hysterical, and also serious, experience with their, you guessed it, vaginas.
The stars of the show included Judi Wilfore (who was replacing regular Sherri Parker Lee), Starla Benford, whose television credits included appearances on “Law and Order” and “New York Undercover,” and Marcia Cross, who had a regular role on “Melrose Place.”
Wilfore, Benford, and Cross sat barefoot on three stools placed center stage. The relationship between the performers and the audience was a surprisingly casual one.
With the setting of the stage only consisting of three chairs, three women, and three microphones, it was left up to the audience to use their imagine to create the scene being described in their minds. Even without props, scenery, and actual characters, the presentation of the “Vagina Monologues” was effective in getting the point cross.
As each performer began a monologue, the lights were dimmed. The only light that was shone on the performers came from a dim spotlight, leaving only a trace of the performer in sight. From this environment, the audience saw and heard versions of “vagina monologues,” including that of the “angry vagina” and the “moaning monologue.”
The “moaning monologue” was definitely the best of all of the monologues. In this monologue, Marcia Cross portrayed a woman who gets her happiness out of making other people moan. She instructed the audience about the sounds of many different kind of moans that takes place during sex. There was the “mountain moan” (with a little yodel thrown in), and even the “WASP” moan. However, the funniest was the “triple orgasmic moan,” the portrayal of which seemed to have lasted more that five minutes.
Humor was one way that was used to make people more comfortable with subject matter. However, to see the real importance of the subject matter, there was also some seriousness involved in the performance. For example, two of the monologues dealt with disturbing experiences of two women who were raped.
For these women, something that was such an important part of them became foreign, something they wish wasn’t even there.
The success of “The Vagina Monologues” is understandable, especially when you look at the career of its writer. Eve Ensler is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, poet, and activist. Ensler was the 1999 recipient of the Guggenheim Grant in Playwriting, and she is in the process of writing a screenplay about women in prison for actress Glenn Close.
“The Vagina Monologues” is also found in book form, and it was a best-seller published by Villard Books. “The Vagina Monologues” won a 1997 Obie Award, and was also nominated for Drama Desk and Helen Hayes awards.
The world tour of “The Vagina Monologues” theatrical performance initiated “V-Day,” a world-wide movement to stop violence against women. V-Day includes cultural events to raise awareness and funds for existing women’s organizations.
The most recent V-Day event took place this past Valentine’s Day, with “The Vagina Monologues” being performed by celebrities like Julia Stiles, Claire Danes, Ricki Lake, and Rosie Perez. With their performance at the Madison Square Garden, the V-Day fund garnered $2 million from ticket sales alone, which will be donated to women’s rights and protections organizations all over the world. More information about V-Day can be found at www.vday.org.
I’ll admit that I was a little weary going into the performance, wondering just how a play of such an surprising name would be performed. However, I was able to walk away with a whole new understanding, not just of the place barely mentioned in everyday life, but of the true significance of the life of a woman. For both men and women, this is a lesson that deserves to be taught.