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Buy 'The Vagina Monologues: The V-Day Edition' by Eve Ensler, with a foreword by Gloria Steinem.

The 'Vagina Monologues' HBO special is available on DVD.


Talk Therapy: Radio personality Marla Davies holds down the guest chair June 3-8 at the San Jose stop for the touring production of 'The Vagina Monologues.'

Frank Talk

'The Vagina Monologues' addresses taboo topic with mixed results

By Marianne Messina

WHATEVER theatergoers have heard about The Vagina Monologues over the last seven years, they'll probably find it all true--and not true--at the Montgomery Theater during the current run of the national touring production of Eve Ensler's famed play. At a recent Saturday show, three women sat in a row on bar stools reading from scripts--not particularly visual, with the exception of fuchsia hair on former Bob Newhart Show star Marcia Wallace (the show also features Gretchen Lee Krich, Joyce Lee and for the June 3-8 shows local guest Marla Davies of KEZR in Wallace's place). Nor was it particularly intimate, since the chairs were downstage on a stage already distanced from the audience by a wall and a dugout-style orchestra pit.

An anatomy lesson it was not. The first character, portrayed by Joyce Lee, tells us that her therapist advised she go along with her philandering husband's wish to shave her vagina. OK, so it's synecdoche, as when one character describes her clitoris: "It was the essence of me. ... I didn't have to find it; I had to be it." But for those expecting empowerment or continuous thigh slapping, the show offered a mixed bag. The Bosnian prisoner-of-war monologue delivered to a hushed audience was no empowerment picnic. Nor was that of the woman whose father shot her rapist--rapus interruptus--when she was 13.

On the other hand, the final monologue, dedicated to "birth," reasserts a traditional, mythic female power. And postmodernists had their day when the three performers presented women's responses to survey questions (not quite capturing the multiplicity of female voices, if you've seen the HBO version). For example, "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" Answers like "feed me,"

"enter at your own risk" and "whoa, Momma" might, according to theorists, supplant the previously male-centered narrative of the sex act with a female-centric view. Or take one character's vision of her vagina as "an anatomical vacuum, randomly sucking up particles and objects." Surely the vacuuming vagina is equally as intimidating as the penetrating penis.

This audience seemed to bring their empowerment with them. At least one large group of girls-night-outers sat center-house, so the "Give me a C" pep rally (you have to be there) drew pretty raucous response. And Wallace's "triple orgasm" evoked an audience "Do it again!" which will certainly earn San Jose a bright star on the "Vagina-Friendly Cities" map. For hilarity, look mostly to accomplished actress Krich with her enthralling 6-year-old, her feisty "pissed-off" vagina: "I don't want my pussy to smell like rain. ... I want to smell the fish; that's why I ordered it!" Probably the best way to approach this show is not knowing what to expect. And take someone up for a good sexual dialogue afterward.

The Vagina Monologues plays Tuesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 5 and 8pm and Sunday at 2 and 7pm through June 8 at the Montgomery Theater, 271 S. Market St., San Jose. Tickets are available at 408.998.TIXS or www.ticketmaster.com. A portion of the profits will be donated to the V-Day Fund to help stop violence against women and girls, and to Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, a San Jose nonprofit.

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From the June 5-11, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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