Humorous yet gut-wrenching, the cast of “The Vagina Monologues and Their Stories” created a beautiful performance demanding attention for the injustices women continue to face.
“The Vagina Monologues and Their Stories” unashamedly displays issues women, gender non-conforming people, and sexual minorities face through a series of short performances, each tackling a different problem. Produced and performed entirely by UC San Diego students, several of these monologues were also original compositions, adding breadth to the original script from “Vagina Monologues.” Compared to their shows from previous years on campus, this rendition of the play was much more intersectional, straying into stories from individuals other than straight cis-women. Not for the faint of heart, some of the scenes contained graphic and sometimes violent descriptions of events. Nevertheless, lighter content was interspersed throughout the evening. These kept the show from being too depressing while also reinforcing the purpose of the show with their equally relevant feminist messages.
After a brief introduction from the directors which included a trigger warning for the audience, act one began, focusing mainly on cis-women and their relationship with their vagina. This first scene, titled “Hair,” details one woman, portrayed by Vanessa Fitzpatrick, and her discriminatory experience with her now ex-husband and a marriage therapist who chastised her for refusing to “please her husband” by shaving her pubic hair. Suzana Hossain takes a more humorous approach with the daily inconveniences women face in “My Angry Vagina.” In this episode, the character she portrays lists the many grievances her vagina has had with numerous things, such as dry tampons and uncomfortable sex. At the end, the character unapologetically admits, “My vagina wants everything,” highlighting the gross disparity in how little society cares about the wants and necessities of women compared to men. Sage Murphy-Cristal also sheds light into an asexual woman’s struggles in “My Hematite Ring,” in which her character initially laments that her vagina must be “broken” due to its lack of “excitement.” Ultimately, she comes to accept herself and uses her hematite ring as a symbol of her identity and commitment to supporting the asexual community. Staying mostly true to the original format of “The Vagina Monologues,” the first act was a poignant reminder of lingering societal problems towards the treatment of women.
After a brief intermission, the cast played a video where several of them explain intersectionality and how important it is to the advancement of “The Vagina Monologues’” message. True to their word, they took a noticeable shift in the following act, focusing on social justice issues related to feminism. The scene “Dictionaries Got to Go,” for example, focuses on one character, portrayed by Elle Lammouchi, showing the struggles LGBT people have with people refusing to deem gay marriage as legitimate. Ryan Sullivan’s performance in “Sit Down, Stay Quiet” describes the immense familial and societal pressure on transgender and gender non-conforming people such as his character to abide by gendered norms. Racism is also addressed in several of the episodes. “Black Girl” focuses on the fetishization of black women, with the character portrayed by Alexis Eubank denouncing the ignorance of one man’s attempts to seduce her using her race. “Not Fair, Not Lovely,” featuring Shivani Das, also shows one woman’s experiences with colorism, ending with her rejecting products designed to lighten one’s skin and fully embracing her darker complexion. Each part of the second act serves a distinct purpose to broaden the scope of “The Vagina Monologues” to other groups. This act, although somber at times, seemed to evoke a rise-to-the-challenge atmosphere, fueled by many of the strong, defiant attitudes the cast embodied as they refused to abide by society’s rules.
Tightly organized around two clear goals of empowering women and improving intersectionality, “The Vagina Monologues and Their Stories” was a phenomenal series of short plays. Emotive and real, each cast member clearly threw themselves completely into their performances, utilizing both their shared and unique experiences to color their final product. They had full reign over the emotional atmosphere of the room, driving the audience from jovial laughter to pensive silence within the space of a breath. With their fairly empty stage setups, barring the occasional times they used a chair or recliner for effect, they also proved that a full-budget production isn’t required to pull viewers to the edge of their seats. For all this, they deserve a standing ovation.
Directors: Jordan Krikorian, Suzete Lourenco, Sriya Podila
Date: February 22nd – 25th, 2019
Venue: Price Center East Ballroom