The Hartland Players opened their latest play on Friday night at the Hartland Music Hall to an audience full of women and one single, brave man. The Vagina Monologues, an episodic play written in 1996 by Eve Ensler, is a series of twelve monologues performed by women.
I had heard of the Vagina Monologues years ago and had always been curious about the show. I will admit though, that I had always wondered how a bunch of women talking about their vaginas could possible entertain me for a full 90-minutes. On Friday night, I got my answer.
I quickly realized, early on during the performance, that for this type of play to succeed and capture the audience, the responsibility rested with each individual actress. And yes, for me, this play succeeded--through an interesting combination of several strong and surprising actors.
The Hartland Players choose to perform their version of the play with no real props or set décor. No background music or help from the audience, except for their instinctual reactions, and no dance numbers or special effects.
The stage is simple and the costumes are minimal expect for flashes of red accessories, such as fishnet stockings or scarves that caught my attention. I will admit to being let down, though, when I never saw a really awesome pair of red high heels flash across the stage.
The spartan set design however, left the focus completely on the small cast of seven who relied only on their animated facial expressions, their hands gestures and their body language to express the sometimes heartbreaking and other times hysterical stories of women and their vaginas. I was also impressed with several of the actresses in the simple way they changed their appearances to enhance their character such as tight-rolled curls and glasses to portray an elderly character, as well as their ability to connect with the audience with just their voices.
By far, the stand-out performance for the night was Janet Winn’s The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy. And to be honest, the monologue itself wasn’t all that interesting. There were several other stories within the play that had captured my attention and were much more interesting for me- like the woman who learned to love her own vagina thanks to a man who showed her how to be proud of it.
Winn, however, stole the show with her bravery and her complete honesty when she demonstrated the different types of moans for the delighted audience. Winn owned that moment on stage. She went for it and the result was not only magnificent, but she had every woman in the crowd relating with her in some way.
Another strong performance came with Jenifer Thomas’s My Angry Vagina, who by simply pulling her hair back, came out with a fierce, funny and totally honest commentary on those dreaded annual visits to gynecologists.
The powerful message of the play-- the strength of women, the discovery of the mystery of our own bodies and the empowerment that comes with that awareness and how, in many ways, we are all connected, was beautifully delivered and well received by their female audience.
The Hartland Players will perform their play again next weekend and I highly recommend this thoroughly enjoyable experience to any group of girlfriends who are looking for something new and different for their weekend plans.
I also strongly encourage the men out there to not be intimidated by the title or the subject and to come see what all the talk is about. I guarantee this cast will “take you someplace” if you let them and all you have to do is “don’t worry, lay back and enjoy the ride!”
A portion of the proceeds from The Vagina Monologues will be donated to LACASA. Tickets can be purchased at the Cromaine District Library or at the door before performances. Remaining show times are Feb. 24 and 25 at 8 pm at the Hartland Music Hall. For more information, visit the Hartland Players website.