Initially, Ensler performed every monologue herself, with subsequent performances featuring multiple actresses, more recently a different actress for every role. In the current version, now at Center Stage Theater through Aug. 3, four women perform the monologues, with the addition of director Jerry Oshinsky performing one based on the experience of a transgendered woman.
Individually, they do a brilliant job of embodying the poignant, funny, tragic, triumphant, angry and wise voices of the women interviewed. And in moments of connection between them, we see a beautiful ensemble energy emerge.
Carol Metcalf brings great life to a demure Englishwoman who achieves breakthrough while searching for herself, and a young Southern girl with shame and pain to overcome.
Maia Mook is in turns sly and painfully vulnerable, as she portrays a sex worker who serves women and a Bosnian woman recounting her brutal rape.
Ivy Vahanian exhibits incredible range, as she performs as a woman who comes to love her vagina after an experience with a tender and appreciative male lover, one who boldly proclaims, in great detail, her love for a term most find offensive, and a 6-year-old girl.
E. Bonnie Lewis shines in her characterizations of an elderly woman discussing her painful memories of “down there” and as a vagina who is angry about being violated with feminine hygiene products and doctor’s examinations.
In her creation of the work, Ensler stated, “Women’s empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality.”
With current legislative attempts to severely limit women’s reproductive rights, Ensler’s words were perhaps never more applicable. When Michigan state Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, was recently banned from speaking on the state House floor after using the word “vagina,” Ensler organized a reading of her iconic play on the House steps, witnessed by thousands.
It is perhaps time that we listened to what they have to say.
The Center Stage Theatre is located at 751 Paseo Nuevo. Tickets are $20 general admission, $17 seniors and students, and $17 for groups of 10 or more. Click here to purchase tickets online or call the box office at 805.963.0408.
— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.