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What is HE doing here? (Times-Picayune)

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Outnumbered but unbowed, a man braves the 'Monologues'

By Doug MacCash
Art critic

How does it feel to be a guy in a gal rally?

Suffice it to say, the men's room wasn't crowded Saturday at the New Orleans Arena.

It's hard to say what the exact gender breakdown of the "Vagina Monologues" audience was, but I'd guess something like 20 women for every man in the audience.

From time to time it was embarrassing -- if that's the right word. When the topic turned to rape, subjugation and general male insensitivity, it had the same effect as when I hear about the massacre at Wounded Knee. I can say to myself, I didn't personally have anything to do with the massacre at Wounded Knee. But I know that people pretty much like me did.

In other words, there were times during the show when the males in the audience probably felt like they were playing for the wrong team.

The performance itself was more fun than I expected. The monologues were short and snappy, with a nice naughty edge to balance the inspirational aspects. And the reactions from the uninhibited crowd were sometimes a show in themselves.

My favorite monologue may have been the very first. Didi Conn (such a great pixie voice) and Doris Roberts (you know, "Everybody Loves Raymond's" meddling mom) played young and old versions of the same poor woman. She passed through life without ever experiencing real romance, yet her nights were filled with erotic dreams, like the one where she dines with Burt Reynolds in a flooded restaurant -- Dean Martin swims by in a tux. Sad, surreal, strangely funny and beautifully acted across the generations.

Another of my favorites was much more abstract. Four actresses (I recognized Shirley Knight) rotated around the stage, reciting a sort of sound poem based on words that make vagina seem tame by comparison. The fact that three of the actresses recited their passages in foreign languages didn't make a bit of difference -- you would have gotten the rebellious gist if they'd been speaking Klingon.

Not to mention that the forbidden words were spelled out in pink lights around the arena interior. I doubt we'll see that during the Hornets' playoff games.

Defusing words for the female anatomy is one of playwright Eve Ensler's causes. Once they're made harmless, they can't be used as weapons against women, right?

Forbidden words aren't the only outré territory in the monologues. Jennifer Beals got some of the night's biggest laughs when she led a trio of vocal accompanists (an all-women Greek chorus, if you will) in a dramatic recitation of meaningful moans -- and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Oprah Winfrey, the no-show headliner, would have added star pizzazz, but honestly, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better acting job than her understudy, Liz Mikel.

I thought about my daughter from time to time -- during Jane Fonda's gloriously grotesque monologue about birth, mostly. I'd like my little girl to grow up in a "Vagina Monologues" world, where she's not ashamed or afraid of anything. I'd like her to be one of those women who spit in society's eye when she feels it's necessary.

Speaking of which, Fonda still looks great -- I hope that's not a sexist thing to say.

The stargazing before the show was entertaining, as well.

I met Val Kilmer in the ticket office. He was really tall, handsome in his tan seersucker suit, and lost. I asked if I could take his photo. He said sure, if I could help him figure out how to get where he was going.

And Dylan McDermott, formerly star of "The Practice" and Ensler's stepson, was in the first row of my section, patiently signing autographs and letting people take his picture.

But my favorite memory is of seeing lanky country diva Faith Hill (she can really belt, by the way) kick off her stilettos and dance with freelance gospel tent percussionist Lady Tambourine. That was an essential only-in-New Orleans moment, no matter what your gender.

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Art critic Doug MacCash can be reached at or (504) 826-3481. To comment on this story or read others by MacCash, go to and click on his picture.