Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, January 25, 2002

Mackenzie Phillips, above, and co-stars Michele Shay and Amy J. Carle, deliver a mesmerizing performance of "The Vagina Monologues."

Funny ‘Vagina Monologues’
touches heart of femininity

By Scott Vogel

I don't have a vagina, though I've met a few of them in my life and have never known quite what to make of them. This ignorance puts me in the company of most men, naturally, but also a surprising number of women, at least on the evidence of "The Vagina Monologues," Eve Ensler's clever, provocative and hilarious pursuit of the heart of femininity now playing at the Hawaii Theatre.

An interesting organ, the vagina, as I found out. The first thing many of us see as we emerge into the world all covered in goo, we spend the rest of our lives trying to forget that fact, shrouding the region, disinfecting it regularly and -- most importantly -- refusing to speak of it, approaching the vagina with fear and danger, like some anatomical Chernobyl.

Which is why Ensler began interviewing more than 200 women on the subject, posing deceptively simple questions like, "If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?" and "If it could speak, what would it say?" ("Slow down," says one woman, while a 6-year-old responds with, "Words that begin with V and T. 'Turtle' and 'violin' are examples.")

Michele Shay

It is via such questions that the women were able to objectify their vaginas, remove them from their region of exile "down there," and transplant them northward for ease of viewing. (In some cases the women report that they've never seen their vaginas before, or only saw them thanks to cannily placed mirrors.)

What they saw, both literally and figuratively, forms the basis of the monologues, which on Wednesday night were delivered wonderfully by Amy J. Carle, Mackenzie Phillips and Michele Shay, the trio perched atop high stools and dressed in matching red and black. Ensler was nothing if not thorough, interviewing women of all ages, all economic backgrounds, many ethnicities and several sexual persuasions. In consequence, the "What would it wear" question, for instance, elicited answers ranging from a taffeta ball gown, sequins, "Armani only," sweat pants and "red high-tops and a Mets cap worn backward."

Amy J. Carle

One of the fascinating things about "The Vagina Monologues" is how quickly, with just a little prompting, women were able to speak so imaginatively and uninhibitedly about this formerly profane region. Many discover they have more of a relationship with their vaginas than they ever knew, and the realization of a lifetime of neglect is poignant for some, implying as it does a neglect of self.

Some monologues take us places we'd rather not go, like into the mind of a young Bosnian woman who was a victim of mass rape during the recent war in the Balkans (although war is not the ultimate culprit -- as Ensler notes, 700,000 women were raped in the United States last year, "and in theory we were not at war.") Another piece forces us to confront the brutal molestation of a vivacious 10-year-old (Shay is riveting here), and others, on the lighter side, explore the hate-hate relationship between women and tampons (Carle shines) and the multifarious moans women produce during sex (Phillips stops the show, in a piece that comes off like a raunchy version of "I Love to Laugh," from "Mary Poppins").

But however reluctantly we enter the theater (the first words you hear when the lights go down are "I bet you're worried"), however queasy we're made by the frank discussions of bodily functions, what finally grips us is the inner journey that Ensler takes us on, a trek beyond shame and taboo, past "layers opening onto more layers" (as one woman says when she sees her vagina for the first time), into the honest essence that lies serenely underneath. "The Vagina Monologues," like all great theater, is a mesmerizing, tortuous voyage that doesn't stop until it reaches the way things are.

"The Vagina Monologues"

Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 3.

Admission: $20 to $45, with $3 discount for Hawaii Theatre members, students, seniors and military; bring a ticket stub from any Jan. 22 to 27 performance and receive a $5 discount on a ticket for a show during the second week

Call: 528-0506

Also: Tuesday's production -- with Loretta Swit taking over Mackenzie Phillips role -- will benefit the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline. The $100 per person event begins 5 p.m. at Compadres Bar & Grill with heavy pupu and cocktails. A trolley will transport guests to the theater for the show, with a meet-the-cast party at Compadres following the show. Reserve by calling 534-0040.

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin