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theater review: Vaginas Proclaim Happiness, Sorrow

Annual V-Day Show Provokes Reflection and Laughter

By Natania Antler

The Vagina Monologues

Feb. 16th-18th

Directed by Albert Oppenheimer, Betsy Eames, Nat Twarog

My vagina was happy to be in 10-250 on Thursday night, and I’ll explain why. MIT’s 2006 production of the Vagina Monologues opened there on Thursday, Feb. 16, to a giant audience. I would have been very surprised if it weren’t packed, considering the volumes of e-mail the group sent out about the event. My vagina was a bit angry for a while, as the show started nearly half an hour late, but it busied itself admiring the red curtains attached skillfully to the front blackboards, which transformed the lecture hall.

The show began to pick up speed with “The Flood,” an interview with an old lady sporting a Southern accent played very cutely by Kavita Kothari ’07. Next was “The Vagina Workshop,” the gem of the first act. Katrine Sivertsen ’08 had the audience nearly rolling on the floor laughing, as she described in a nuanced British accent how she got back into touch with her vagina at a workshop for that sort of thing. Both actresses pulled off their accents well, so that despite the somewhat homogenous cast, the audience was reminded of the diversity of women. Later on, accents briefly donned by less experienced actresses were a bit distracting.

After “Vagina Happy Fact” (in which a cartwheeling Kate Weston ’06 delivered the news that the vagina has twice the number of nerves that the penis does) the show took a more serious turn. With “Because He Liked to Look at It” (well done by Jocelyn Rodal ’06), the mood temporarily became discordant and depressing. What saved this show from being a fluffy piece of feminist comedy was that it had a dark underside that made audience aware of ongoing violence against women.

The serious side of the show began with a piece done by three women that illustrated the spectrum of experiences during their first menstruation (“I was 12. My Mother Slapped Me”). The next piece described the abuse, rape, collateral damage, and mass murder of women. I wasn’t hugely thrilled with “The Memory of Her Face” because it referred to the Iraq war — though the piece made a valid statement, its politically charged nature was distracting. In “My Vagina Was My Village” Mary-Irene Lang ’08 dealt with the highly graphic and disturbing subject of protracted gang rape in a war zone with amazing depth and skill. The monologue still haunts me, as it should.

After “Village,” the show took a slightly lighter turn, although it still contained a piece about the plight of the “comfort women” taken by Japanese soldiers during World War II. One monologue, about the reclaiming of a certain pejorative word to describe female genitalia, was not particularly effective. It concluded with the actress trying to get the audience to shout out the word, but perversely, I only heard male voices participating in jest.

The show closed with “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” about a female sex-worker who does business only with other women (played with gusto and hilarity by Leora Maccabee). This piece featured the entire cast on stage illustrating the varied sounds women can make before having orgasms, and again, the hilarity was nearly unbearable. The final monologue, featuring Amy S. Brzezinski G as playwright Eve describing the awe of witnessing her granddaughter’s birth, brought a poignant close to the show.

This was the fifth annual show, part of the college campaign for V-Day, an international day to stop violence against women. The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and The Boston Chapter of the Polaris Project were the recipients of the proceeds from this year’s performances.

If you missed it this year, I encourage you to go next year. It’s a fun show that also makes you think, and it’s for a good cause. How could you lose?