The Vajayjay Monologues
nytheatre.com review by Ross Chappell
August 9, 2008
It's nice to be surprised by something truly new, and Lindsay Burns's original one-woman show, The Vajayjay Monologues, is most definitely an altogether new creature. Its title might make it seem like an obvious or simple comic takeoff of Eve Ensler's acclaimed The Vagina Monologues. Rest assured, it is not. Part parody, part sociopolitical statement, part homage, this play is the oddest and most outstanding balance of honest appreciation and legitimate questioning I've ever seen. While fans of The Vagina Monologues (and of Ensler's vital movement, V-Day) will get the most out of this show, Burns has carefully crafted a show that speaks to a wider audience, due to both its humor and its pathos.
The play is brilliantly funny and Burns's slightly over-the-top delivery is a marvelous send-up of Ensler's original performance. From the opening line, "I bet you're worried," I wasn't. Not the least bit. Burns is a wonderful performer and her stage presence is immediately apparent, somehow managing to be simultaneously commanding and inviting. Therein lies the brilliance of her writing as well. The show, a series of monologues with a couple songs, echoes and even answers Ensler's original work. Burns warns against the dangers of the "fake Bob" and the "coochie snorcher cherry popper." (Don't worry if that didn't make sense. She provides just enough exposition to include everyone in the jokes.) Her skewering of Ann Coulter as an "odious gasbag of spew" had me nearly falling out of my chair, while a revolt against cosmetic vaginal procedures had me wincing and howling at the same time. Her segment on the various slogans that vaginas might choose is absolutely priceless. Her scene recalling the onset of a schoolgirl's menstruation made my heart ache. Once again, the brilliance is in the balance. Every moving scene has a light note, and all of the humor is laced with meaning, but it's somehow never heavy-handed. Every moment, every character, every riotously funny observation about the current state of society, the Internet, politics, feminism, etc., has at its heart the clearest sincerity.
Vicki Stroich's direction is an excellent match for this unique work. Stroich clearly understands the piece and does a marvelous job with both the staging and the pace.
Burns makes the audience laugh out loud but also confronts them with some tough questions. How much progress has really been made, Burns asks, when Oprah (a one-time Vagina Monologues cast member) uses the euphemism "vajayjay" on national television, and we are under constant visual bombardment by the vaginas of Britney and Paris? She not only understands but has also managed to capture and humorously present a rather elusive truth: when we so canonize a person or movement that we can no longer stop and take an honest look at where we are, at the successes and failures of a particular effort, then we become static and wind up undermining the very empowerment that people like Eve Ensler have devoted so much time and energy trying to inspire in us. We cede the movement to history and consign true progress to the shelf while we pat ourselves on the back for walking around in circles. In this piece, Burns asks us how we can move forward. It is a question we must all work to answer if progress is to continue.