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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The 2014 Lipstick Theater Vagina Monologues and Dick Dialogs

Or: Bearing All


As ensemble member Avra Shapiro states in her dialog “Dear Eve”, Ensler’s “The V- Monologs” are a work shrouded in worry and mystery. The common view of it is of a sword forged in late 90’s to be placed in the hands of (largely white, middle class) women to defend themselves against the belligerent stigma of societies distaste for “down there” and to cut away the darkness of ignorance about their bodies and their selves. The public generally views that sword with fear or reserve, a weapon designed to cut, skewer and accuse, which it does, though it can execute a redondo of wit as much as a stab of guilt.


But for all its utility, the metal has faults in it, and grievous ones at that. In her slam to and of the Monologues, Shapiro calls many of these faults to court (including its objectification of the “poor foreigner”; its lumping of male identified feminists into the file of “not that helpful”; its inability to recognize that seducing a minor is seducing a minor, period). Feminism is a living force for good, ever changing to address the problems of the day and needs more tools than a weapon. It needs a brush, strong and sturdy and meant for many hands, that can allow anyone (her, him, or e) to leave their individual mark on the growing mural of conscious thought and righteousness action. That is what director Kaitlyn Andrews and her vibrant band have set out to make.


Respecting the work of those that came before, Andrews does a fine job of showing off Ensler’s sword play and her “babes with blades” (if they will forgive being so called; the term is poached with great respect) prove some of the ablest handlers of Ensler’s collection you could wish to see. Sometime the performers have trouble grounding themselves, and sometimes their words are lost amid the high ceilings of the Garrett Tower, but Andrews ensures that their focus is always outward to us, actively sharing their anger, their laughter, their sorrow, instead of launching it into the dark. Lauren Stremmel superbly renders an octogenarian new yorker, with a gentleness to and from the character as she punts across the sadness and humor from that long ago interview. Lindsey Olson shines as a wilde-ish wit skeptically taking a class to find herself through “herself”, who is unexpectedly moved by the depth of the exercise. And Hillary Back delights herself and her audience (once they’ve cleaned the banana off themselves) in taking on the words of a woman of negotiable affection who’s personal mission is to teach women the art of vocally investing the oh-be-joyfuls, with a riotous roll call of moan imitations.

But it is telling their own stories, or at least telling the stories that speak to them, that the ensemble really comes to life. Some chose to express themselves through poetry or rhyme, like Shapiro address to Ensler, or Erin Reininga’s fast flowing, hard hitting description of her past trauma in “the Knot”. Some are recitations of others work, such as Miranda Cawley’s recitation of “I Shook” by Suzi Gard, spoken with such honesty you could be forgiven the sentiment and memories came from their own mouths. And some just come with private griefs or triumphs as in Tatyana Aravena’s “Buttercup” struggling with the inferiority that a culture which expects women to be quiet and play nice infects or Olson’s “Dear Goldfish”, a letter to her sister affirming and founding a love that will last beyond who ever and whatever she decides to be. It is in these dialogs, that we see real women and real artists bearing their own lives, as well as those who have given their memories and thoughts to the cause before, for our benefit. It’s not a evening of mystery and worry, but one of illumination and inclusion, which was what the spirit of the V-monologues was supposed to be in the first place.

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