'Monologues' a hit at Lied Center

Viva vagina!

Try leaving "The Vagina Monologues" without feeling that bold sentiment.

The Eve Ensler production is at the Lied Center this weekend, and the three actresses who give voice to the often-too-silent topic of female sexuality and its most obvious conduit -- the vulva -- deliver a stellar performance.

"Happy Days" star Erin Moran (remember Joanie?) rotates into the three-woman cast for the Lawrence show. Tour regulars Starla Benford and Amy J. Carle round out the ensemble.

The three take command of Ensler's creation, a series of monologues based on interviews with more than 200 diverse women about their vaginas. There's the 72-year-old woman who's never seen her "down theres," the woman who connects with her clitoris at a vagina workshop, the woman whose vagina is angry about all the ways society is trying to change her, the Bosnian woman who was repeatedly raped during war in Yugoslavia and the sex worker who only "works" with women.

The set is appropriately sparse. Each woman, dressed in a red top and black bottoms, perches on a tall stool and speaks into a microphone. Simple spotlights illuminate each woman as she speaks.

Moran, who has said she grew up in a home where sex was never discussed, lets loose in the show. Her most impressive moment: a fake orgasm a la "When Harry Met Sally," only in triplicate. Her insanely realistic rendition (if there's anything realistic about a triple orgasm) brought some in Saturday's matinee audience to tears.

Benford shows extraordinary range, convincingly portraying a 5-year-old girl just a few minutes after playing a Muslim woman, shattered and broken down after being repeatedly sexually violated. The latter monologue was the most somber, and Benford's moving performance left the audience stone silent.

They were laughing soon enough, however, as Carle launched into a rail about her angry vagina, the trio bantered about the illegality of vibrators in a handful of U.S. states (where, incidentally, there's nothing criminal about handgun sales) and Benford reclaimed the dreaded C-word in rhythmic, gyrating, slam-poet style.

She even got the audience to chant the word with her.

"Now, now, what would Bill O'Reilly think?" Carle joked, making reference to the conservative journalist's recent targeting of a Kansas University human sexuality class.

Between monologues, the women rattled off vagina facts. Some were happy: The clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis. ("Who needs a handgun when you've got a semi-automatic?" Benford quipped.) Others were horrific: More than 130 million women have undergone female genital mutilation.

The "Monologues" force audiences, at least for a little more than an hour, to contemplate the vagina, what it's been through and where it's going, and pay it the reverence it deserves.

The show plays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. today. It contains explicit language.


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