THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES by Eve Ensler, directed by Abby Epstein, with Gloria Reuben, Starla Benford and Sherri Parker Lee. Presented by RCB Productions at the Music Hall Theatre (147 Danforth). Runs to January 7, Tuesday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 5 and 8 pm, Sunday 3 and 7 pm. $35-$60, stu rush. 870-8000. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Lots of hype and some good writing have gone into The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler's lauded sex-themed piece based on interviews she conducted with hundreds of women. But there's something smarmy about the production, a faux folksiness that at times undercuts the comedy and poetic imagery aimed at reclaiming female sexuality. It's easy to appreciate the raunchy humour in some of the pieces -- the names women give their vaginas, how they'd dress them and what they imagine they'd say. But too often director Abby Epstein and the performers don't trust the material. They sell it hard rather than deliver it, not letting the stories and the emotions underneath work on their own merits.
Two New York actors, the warm Starla Benford -- who has a great birth monologue and another about a pleasure-giving man -- and the more caricature-oriented Sherri Parker Lee, are regulars in the five-week run. They're joined each week by a different Canadian performer -- Shirley Douglas (through this Sunday), Sonja Smits, Chantal Kreviazuk and lastly Mary Walsh. I hope they're better than the sometimes nervous Gloria Reuben, who opened the show and spent more time reciting the words than getting into their heart.
And since the show makes a big deal out of being a Canadian premiere, someone might have done some north-of-the-border research so the actors didn't have to regularly quote American statistics.