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NY Newsday: "V-Day Spreads the Word"


By Linda Winer, Staff Writer

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. Written and directed by Eve Ensler, production design by Myung Hee Cho, lights by Beverly Emmons. V-Day benefit at Madison Square Garden. Seen Saturday night.

JANE FONDA marveled at the wonders of the birth canal and gave $1 million.

Gloria Steinem agreed to declare "heaven palace" a euphemism for a legendarily unmentionable body part. Glenn Close reclaimed the other four-letter word as a celebratory war cry, and Calista Flockhart defended a woman's right to wear a really short skirt.

Saturday was "V-Day 2001" at Madison Square Garden, which meant that 70 famous and otherwise admirable females put on their red feather boas to help stop violence against women and lead a pep rally for their genitalia. The inspiration, you probably know, is "The Vagina Monologues," which creator Eve Ensler has transformed from a set of downtown interview-inspired solos to an off-Broadway staple for visiting actresses and, now, an international philanthropic phenomenon.

Ensler has a good-natured but seriously evangelical mission about a territory often misunderstood, ignored or abused. To anyone raised in the heyday of "Our Bodies, Our Selves" and other bibles of boomer feminism-not to mention the liberated language of Lenny Bruce-many of her revelations may seem somewhat less than revolutionary.

And, yet, Ensler has not merely found a unifying theme for generations of fragmented woman power. In the three years since she began the Valentine's Day human-rights assault, V-Day has expanded into a force in dozens of American cities, not to mention Belgrade, Bombay, Sarajevo and Capetown.

On Saturday, Oprah Winfrey did a monologue about the women under fundamentalist control in Afghanistan, and there were appearances from ordinary women and girls who suddenly find themselves activists against genital mutilation in Africa. Claire Danes and Julia Stiles did a moving duet about Bosnian rape. Serious emotions and serious money were raised.

Ensler, barefoot in a red satin dress, led a reported 19,000 women and others in an orgiastic "Madison Square Garden moan." Rosie Perez was particularly irresistible as the furious voice of gynecocracy. The stars-named the "Vulva Choir"-cheered and waited their turns around the raised stage that may have been on loan from a boxing match. The theme was "Take Back the Garden," which, in this testosterone sanctuary, did not have to be explained.

Unfortunately, the three-hour evening was preceded by an alienating, unprofessional hour of mass chaos at the stadium box office. Sisterhood may be powerful, but, clearly not enough to provide crowd control.
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