‘Vagina Monologues’ empowers and entertains
If your vagina could talk, what would it say? If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear? These are some of the questions posed in Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” which Brandeis students performed on Thursday, April 19 and Saturday, April 21.
“The Vagina Monologues” is a series of monologues and ensemble pieces based on interviews Ensler conducted with hundreds of women in the 1990s. In recent years, however, it has come under fire for not being inclusive of transgender individuals, though Ensler herself stated, “In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.” I was glad to see that Brandeis chose to perform the show despite the controversy, because it is an important piece that sheds light on issues such as rape and domestic violence.
I saw the show on Thursday, when it was performed in Pearlman 113. The small, circular room is a cozy space, and the production team capitalized on that. A tapestry hung behind the stage; more tapestries were draped on furniture and pillows were scattered around the floor. The stage was dotted with succulents, fairy lights and electric tealights. The atmosphere made me feel like I was being told stories by a friend, not seeing a theatrical production. Given the intimate nature of the monologues, this worked quite well.
Brandeis’ production cut out quite a few of the monologues from the original script. While I am unsure of the legality of this, the cast did such a wonderful job with the pieces they kept in that I barely noticed the missing ones. The production team crafted a fine balance between funny, heartbreaking and empowering pieces.
Especially notable were Alice Wu ’20 in a haunting rendition of “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could” and Kavita Sundaram’s ’20 chilling presentation of “My Vagina Was a Village,” both of which dealt with sexual violence and rape. By far the funniest piece — and judging by the audience’s reaction, the crowd favorite — was “The Flood,” perfectly performed by Rachel Blau ’20. Though the monologue, in which an old woman tells the audience that her vagina is “closed due to flooding,” was the comedic relief of the night, it was surprisingly poignant. Additionally, Gabi Burkholz ’21 deserves a shout-out for her impressively acted orgasm in response to the question “What would your vagina say?”
Also commendable are Maryam Chishti ’20 and Carmen Landaverde ’19, who performed their own personal monologues. I’ve read “The Vagina Monologues” many times, and these two pieces were so well written and performed that it took me a moment to realize they were new additions.
Another highlight of this production was the diverse cast, especially given how white Brandeis theater can be. The majority of the production team and cast were women of color, and it was great to see this level of racial representation.
Aside from some technical difficulties, Thursday’s performance was flawless. In a semester full of notable theatrical performances, “The Vagina Monologues” especially stands out.