CSUN women give unique voices to ‘Vagina Monologues’


Never before has inexperience in theater been an excellent aspect of a play, but CSUN’s recent production of “The Vagina Monologues” thrived with an amateurish feel that enhanced, rather than ruined, Eve Ensler’s play.

“The Vagina Monologues” was presented as part of a nationwide college campaign intent on eliminating violence against women, a goal that could be seen in some of the more heavy-handed portions of the play. CSUN’s V-Day Club has been presenting the play for three years now.

This year, producers Taranika Echols and Veronica Chavira and director Khira Thomas used lighting, costumes and overwhelming, on-stage feelings of friendship and realism to make the monologues a production that everyone – men and women – can relate to.

The performed monologues covered everything from menstruation to sex slavery in Japan between 1932 and 1945, and everything else in between. Ensler’s writing is insightful, appealing, and simultaneously funny, heartbreaking and sometimes too honest for the audience’s comfort levels.

However, what one misses when merely reading the book are the emotions behind the words. Ensler witnessed these moments first-hand, and the translation is lost somewhere in between her memories and your reading of the monologues. The lack of realism through just reading her book is disappointing, but seeing the monologues performed – especially by the women who took the stage at CSUN last week – adds a dose of rawness that is needed to truly understand the subject matter; in this way, the V-Day Club’s production of the monologues far outweighs their written form.

The production’s strongest asset is the cast, but not because of any perceived, studied acting ability that calls to mind years in a musty theater. Rather, the cast makes the production great because of the reality that each of the women brings to their parts. Some of the acting dulls a bit, leaning slightly toward heavy-handed over-dramatic performances. Each of the monologues features the women in what certainly feels like each actress’ natural environment, full of embarrassing situations, uncomfortable silences and the kind of sex talk that no one wants to admit to having frequently.

All of the actresses – particularly Katharyn Sinelli, Leah Bermudez and Melissa Dodson – bring an uninhibited feel to the play that would appear out of place in “traditional” theater, but works perfectly in this production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

The play’s idea of reality is helped by two features – the costumes and lighting used in the play. The clothes, some of which were provided by the actresses themselves, contribute to the idea behind the monologues; that these women are real, ordinary people, just like any other woman in the audience. Clothing was used in a non descript way but still reiterated the play’s comfortable approach to women’s lives and sexuality.

The lighting for the play was used in a clever, interesting way, in order to better convey the emotions behind the monologues – muted shades were used during more serious monologues, while vibrant yellow, orange, or red highlighted more amusing scenes. During one memorable moan sequence in a monologue titled “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” a series of colors were used to rapidly highlight the scene, creating a truly unique moment.

In the end, however, the production was excellent simply in the importance it paid to women’s happiness and confusion in life and love. The actresses managed to make the importance of women’s feelings and thoughts clear, and for that reason CSUN’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” was undoubtedly a success.

Lauren Robeson can be reached at lauren.robeson.79@csun.edu.