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Vaginas still talking 15 years later
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Vaginas still talking 15 years later

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Vagina Monologues
Stone Soup Theatre
Through April 25


Performances of Eve Ensler's award-winning play The Vagina Monologues are a lot like vaginas; they've been around a long time, each one is totally different, and you should plan ahead if you want to get in.

The Stone Soup Theatre's 2010 production of The Vagina Monologues is part of the V-Day Campaign, a global movement, founded by Ensler, to stop violence against women and girls. The production runs April 2-25 and includes five new "Spotlight Monologues" created specifically for the V-Day Campaign.

The "V" in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. That's vabulous!

If you have loved The Vagina Monologues before, you won't be disappointed. Familiar monologues like "My Angry Vagina," an indignant rant about thong underwear and cold ducklips; "Flood," wherein arousal and shame mark an insensitive boy's car upholstery; and "Reclaiming Cunt," which, well, reclaims the word "cunt," are present and accounted for.

There are also five newly written monologues designed to focus on situations around the world where women are at risk, situations where women have been raped, murdered, dismissed, subjugated, or denied the right to even exist. The two most powerful of the five concern a Transgendered woman and women living under the burqa.

Aiden Karamanyan gives a powerful reading of "They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy & or So They Tried" based on interviews with Transwomen from all over America. Karamanyan has a rich voice and delivers the monologue in a halting fashion that conflates the courage and fear in asking the world to acknowledge this kind of vagina. The inclusion of the Transwoman in The Vagina Monologues is politically important and comes awfully late, but I'm glad it was present, and Karamanyan is terrific.

"Under the Burqa" is performed by Frances Hearn, a veteran of the Seattle and Los Angeles acting scenes. After an awkward disclaimer about cultural choices and a mysterious time when the burqa was/is/will be a choice (or not), Hearn dives into a monologue about life for women under the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The monologue is a blistering response to the oppression wrought on Afghani women by the religious leaders.

The material is controversial and handled delicately (thus the unwieldy disclaimer at the beginning). There's a narrow space left between standing up for women oppressed by the rules and regulations of a major religion and respecting the religious freedom of hundreds of millions of Muslims. Regardless of all the cultural politicking of the monologue, Hearn gives a poignant and nuanced take, choreographed around a red curtain that divides the stage. Hearn's expressive eyes speak entire stories by themselves.

Things started shakily for the cast, but chalk that up to opening-night jitters. Once they settled in and the strange accents got smoothed out, everything fell into place. Camille Campbell and Hearn give stand-out performances throughout. Melissa Topscher finds her comfort zone doing a stand-up version of "My Angry Vagina" and, as mentioned, Karamanyan has an odd cadence to her speech that works well with her role.

The small stage at Stone Soup Theatre and intimate seating is perfect for a five-person ensemble performance like this production. The blocking is nicely designed and the constant entries and exits keep things interesting without being distracting. The monologues can get static if the actors aren't moving; I've seen it happen.

The Vagina Monologues has been around a while now and I've seen it performed a number of times. Many people question if they are still relevant after so long in the public sphere and after so many productions all over the world. Other people seem to want some equal time for other identities to speak out (an issue at least partially addressed through the inclusion of the trans character).

The Vagina Monologues are certainly still relevant. The new pieces have a broader cultural scope than the original play. They have a definitive international perspective due to new pieces like "Say it" and "Under the Burqa."

Sure, women have come a long way here in the U.S. of A, but as long as a woman's body is considered a threat to male virtue anywhere, as long as women's bodies are routinely mutilated to ensure fidelity anywhere, as long as vaginas are routinely considered nothing more than penis receptacles and birthing tubes anywhere, as long as women anywhere in the world suffer under patriarchal oppression, The Vagina Monologues will be relevant.

Visit www.vday.org and www.stonesouptheatre.org for more information.

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