Review: ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse

Laughs and tears, cheers and sizzlers

or

Learning to love the “C” word

Vagina. Vagina. Vagina.

Cunt. Pussy. Twat. Snatch.

There.

I said it.

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play about vaginas.

And, quite a bit more.

Who knew yelling the word “cunt” would be a battle cry for self-awareness?

If knowledge truly is power, knowing about, talking about, sharing anecdotes about and openly discussing this still-taboo part of a woman’s anatomy makes for a powerful evening.

A must see for all genders.

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The play’s author, Eve Ensler, was the original star of this play when it first opened Off Broadway in 1996.

A version at The National Theater in October 2001 featured Ensler and two actresses. One, a guest star, carried her script onstage and read from it. It did not detract from a memorable performance. After the show, the energized and overwhelmingly female part of the audience quickly tired of waiting in the eternal line for the ladies’ room. Several dozen pushed the handful of males aside and took over the men’s room.

A sensation then, the play’s words still have the power to educate and to illuminate.

Usually talking about one’s vagina – or the myriad words to describe it – is mostly done in hushed tones. This show continues to be powerful, especially in a region where teaching teens about their body parts and birth control options in public and private high schools continues to be hotly debated or banned.

The show Friday night at Laurel Mill Playhouse was more than a sellout. Director Michael V. Hartsfield was busy setting up extra chairs a half hour before showtime.

Aside from the fellow at the concession stand, Hartsfield was the only male in this estrogen-filled production.

The cast, of 15 women, was an incredibly diverse group, and spanned in age from Millennials to Golden Girls. The 15 included mother-and-daughter pair Patrice Woody and Nicole Woody. Patrice also doubled as Stage Manager.

Phyllis Kay, Lauren Moses and Carole Cox served as the show’s narrators. As a trio, they would bookend a series of introductions and monologues. They opened with a review of the many nicknames for the nether region. Who knew there were so many “C” words? Or, terms for “down there” starting with “N”?  The audience laughed nervously. That was just the beginning.

The narrative covers the spectrum of “down there” statistics from the fact a clitoris has twice the nerve bundles and nerve ending as a penis, to the tragic numbers of millions of females worldwide – mostly young girls – who’ve endured genital mutilation and its painful life-scarring or fatal after affects.

“No god or religion demands this,” said the narrator.

The cast adroitly handled their own costuming, hair, and makeup. Along with the director, they created the playlist of popular songs that enhanced the atmosphere throughout the show. Barb Gasper’s “HAIR” monologue was followed, appropriately, with the upbeat theme from … HAIR.

A more defiant monologue ended with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”

The stage was simple, set on each side with a small table and two chairs. Toward the rear of the stage were three chairs and stands for the narrators to place their scripts. The backdrop was painted to resemble the rough stone walls of a medieval church or castle. The actresses were dressed as if they just came from dinner at the restaurant next door.

To write the script, Ensler interviewed hundreds of women around the world to discern their attitudes about their private lady part and to hear their stories. Several of these women’s stories form the basis of the play; some have been updated to keep, pun intended, abreast of the times.

The actresses portrayed a lifespan of voices and sexual orientations, from a six year old clutching her teddy bear to a woman looking back on a disastrous first date in a new all-white car that shut down her own self-enjoyment for decades afterward. A Bosnian refugee, a survivor of brutal wartime gang rapes told her story to a hushed audience. A 70-something woman from New York has a story, too. So does the woman, portrayed by Mendy Ault, who is at first perturbed and then thrilled by the man who stared at her vagina for over an hour in “Because He Liked To Look At It.” Ault made the audience feel as if they were in the bedroom with her as she demanded her new lover to, “Just do it!”

One woman, in amazement and awe, describes the natural birth of her grandchild, raising the concept of a vagina that’s not just a sex toy.

Patty Seitz, Jasmine Buchanan, Heather Warren and Christen Able raised the temperature in the room with their monologues: “My Angry Vagina,” “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could,” “Reclaiming Cunt,” and “The Woman Who Loves To Make Vaginas Happy.”

Heather Warren sizzles in her steamy rendition of “Reclaiming Cunt.” She used every part of her lithe, expressive, sinuous body to underscore her words.

Christen Able kicked the thermometer up a few more notches with her orgasmic tale of “The Women Who Love To Make Vaginas Happy.”

She strode off the stage knowing she’d conquered the audience.

Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes, with no intermission.

The Vagina Monologues plays through tomorrow, February 14, 2016 at Laurel Mill Playhouse – 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

The Cast:
Mendy Ault, Jasmine Buchanan, Barbara Gasper, Emma Jensen, Phyllis Kay, Marky Markowitz, Marge McGugan, Lauren Moses, Jenna Jones Paradis, Patty Seitz, Heather Warren, Natalia Wojcik, Nicole Woody, and Patrice Woody.

Produced by Maureen C. Rogers.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1552.gif

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Wendi Winters
Wendi Winters is a writer, reporter, columnist and photographer - and a former NYC public relations executive. A good portion of her career has been in public relations - backed by solid experience in fashion retailing, wholesaling, textiles, marketing, advertising, design and promotion. She owned her own successful fashion public relations/advertising/special events/runway show production firm for seven years. As a journalist, she was the first freelancer to bring a journalism award home to The Capital - and then earned two more awards. Since May 2013, Ms. Winters has been a full time staff member at Capital Gazette Communications. Prior to that, she freelanced for the company for twelve years. Including her three weekly columns, she writes more than 250 articles annually. Her writing byline has appeared in Details Magazine, What's Up? Annapolis Magazine, and numerous others. She's been a feature writer for Associated Press Special Features and for Copley News Service. For years, her fashion critic columns ran in the NYC weeklies Manhattan Spirit and Our Town. Since moving to this area in 1999, as a D.C./Baltimore-area theatre critic, her reviews appeared in Theatre Spotlight and The Review. Plus, she was a Helen Hayes Awards nominator for two terms. Mother of four, she continues to be active as a Girl Scout leader and a regional church youth advisor. You bet she can make a mean S'More!