’The Vagina Monologues’ celebrates female sexuality

Following the yearly tradition of numerous schools and organizations, the Women’s Center produced Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues for the second time in as many years this Thursday and Friday. The two sold-out performances of Ensler’s world-renowned monologues were designed to provoke discussion and draw awareness to women’s issues and specifically the taboo surrounding female sexuality.

Presented at the CenterStage, the production, directed by Liz Weinberg ’11, capitalized on the space’s inherent aesthetic qualities by using minimal lighting and set pieces. Against this background, the poignancy of Ensler’s words and the women whose stories they tell were enhanced before an audience alternately moved to laughter and tears by the gripping stories.

The all-female cast is not an especially dramatic group – in fact, it is a diverse collection of women who serve to exemplify the respective characters they represent, increasing the production’s accessibility with a generally down-to-earth outlook. Ariel Heyman ’08 typified this authenticity in performance of “Hair,” a monologue about the functionality of pubic hair. Heyman’s sincerity built a familiarity and sense of ease with the audience that endured throughout the show.

Among the other noteworthy pieces was “Because He Liked to Look at It,” performed by Amanda Korman ’10, which told the story of one woman becoming comfortable with her body by meeting an ordinary man, Bob, who defied typical standards by appreciating her vagina. Korman portrayed the speaker and Bob by alternately changing her vocal inflection and physicality, and interpreted the woman as self-assured, a refreshing take on the monologue, which is often performed as a timid woman’s tale.

While the production itself was successful in portraying its message of openness and celebration of female sexuality, it sometimes fell short of achieving a balance between the light-hearted and the serious. Some moments garnered big laughs (what your vagina would say if it could speak: “Where’s Brian?”), but other punch lines were lost in their interpretation. Similarly, some serious moments were diluted by their presentation, such as the haunting monologue “My Vagina Was My Village.” Rather than one woman describing both natural and peaceful imagery and the violent and graphic story of her own rape and mutilation simultaneously, the monologue was divided between two actresses. This choice diminished the effect of seeing juxtaposed one woman’s strength and the scope of her emotional trauma in the face of suffering.

The rest of the cast, including narrators Caroline Chiappetti ’11 and Becca Kane ’10, as well as Jessica Clarke ’10, Lily Li ’08, Semira Menghes ’11, Adrianna San Roman ’09, Sarah Sedney ’10, Dae Selcer ’10, Elizabeth Twaits ’11 and Ruth Yoo ’10 all glowed with the type of feminine confidence that The Vagina Monologues aims to inspire in its audience.

With ambitious subject matter that strikes close to home for much of the female audience, as well as enlightening others with new perspectives on female sexuality, this production effectively spread awareness in an entertaining way. After all, where else is it publicly acceptable to exhibit 20 different types of orgasmic moans (“The college moan: ‘I should be studying. I should be studying!’”) or talk about what a vagina would wear and say if it could?

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