“Vagina.” If you were at the UC Irvine production of the “Vagina Monologues,” you became desensitized to this word really fast.
Eleven years ago, Eve Ensler created “The Vagina Monologues” as part of V-Day, a movement that strives to end violence against girls and women. UCI’s production was both an interesting take on the movement and an excellent show.
Upon entering the theater, the energy was palpable. The cast was getting pumped up with feel-good tunes such as the Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believing,” doing group huddles, chanting and generally bringing themselves into show mode. It was hard to not join in; feet tapped along in time to the music, and it was tempting to jump up and join in their antics.
A quick look at the audience as they filed into their seats revealed a diversity of people who had come out for the performance, young and old, male and female and some bearing “We Love Vaginas” signs.
The first monologue followed an energetic introduction. Right from the start, the scene hooked the audience as a curvy blonde came out with a Southern drawl dripping with sass as she talked about hair “down there.” The scene was very funny, and ultimately conveyed the message that to love a vagina you have to love hair, because after all, “you can’t pick the parts you want.”
Next, the entire cast answered the question, “If your vagina could wear anything, what would it wear?” Answers ranged from high heels to glasses to a leather jacket.
The next scene depicted an elderly woman talking about her “down there.” The scene, named “Flood,” was hilarious, but also took on a sad tone as she described a bad, yet hilarious experience she had as a teen, and explained how her vagina has been “closed due to flooding” ever since.
A piece on self-revelation followed, depicting a woman who attended a workshop to learn to love her vagina. Portrayed in a British accent, this scene had the audience cracking up, and some delightfully crass imitations at the opportune moments really gave the scene that edge.
In “Bob, The Man Every Woman Needs,” a woman explained her experiences with her vagina, and how her perceptions changed due to one man: Bob. He loved vaginas, and it was through him that she came to love herself.
The next piece returned to a more somber tone, dealing with the serious topic of female genital mutilation. Disturbing statistics, enhanced by the actress’ range of facial emotion, cast a spell over the room, changing the tone from gaiety to gravity in one fell swoop. The following piece dealt with an equally heavy topic: the brutality that transgendered women face in society. From childhood on, they are forced to conform to a standard of sexuality that is both arbitrary and rigid.
However, one of the best scenes of the night was the “My Angry Vagina” monologue. This scene had the audience crying with laughter as a fiery redhead ranted and raved in a Scottish brogue, especially when she commented about tampons being “a dry wad of cotton shoved up there.” Another highlight of the night was a reference to feminine products meant to mask or change odor. The actress likened this process to washing fish after you’ve cooked it, stating, “I want to taste the fish, that’s why I ordered it!”
Alhough the dance scene featured graceful dancers, it seemed out of place in the show and did not convey the same effect witnessed in the other pieces.
After the intermission, a raffle was conducted to give away vagina-friendly products. A video montage polling UCI students about how they perceived the word “vagina” amused attendees.
Another somber performance followed. “My Village, My Vagina” dealt with an 8-year-old rape victim from the Congo, creating a presentation that was both disturbing and poignant.
“Coochie Snorcher” was a great piece about a child who endures a lot of physical abuse from various people including her father’s best friend, before finding her true sexual liberation with an older woman. The French accent made the scene all the more interesting.
The scene, probably most well known, was the “Moaning” scene. This great scene dealt with the vast array of moans a woman can make, and it’s both a celebration and a parody of noise during sex.
“I Was There in the Room” rounded out the show, giving a nod to childbirth. A round of thank-yous and recognitions followed, including the crew’s plea for the audience to take the message to heart and stop sexism and violence against women. Ultimately, “The Vagina Monologues” was both an evening well-spent and an important exploration of women’s issues.