The Vagina Monologues | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Vagina Monologues 

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There's no denying that Eve Ensler's cultural tsunami of female empowerment suffers from an occasional surfeit of earnestness. But if there's a better antidote to self-important solemnity than Judy Tenuta, I haven't encountered her--and the Oak Park native has stepped into the long-running show at the Apollo until May 19. Tenuta doesn't haul out her famous accordion, but she does manage to both celebrate and send up Ensler's parade of women discovering V power. Tenuta's cutting asides, part of what made the so-called Petite Flower a favorite at local comedy clubs in the 1980s, are a highlight here as well: At the outset, as the three performers rattle off a list of the varieties of women Ensler interviewed, Tenuta stops after "sex workers" and deadpans, "Yeah. That's a job." Her orgasm symphony is truly a showstopper, and when Miriam Plotkin delivers a monologue about reclaiming the word "cunt," Tenuta comes back with a hilarious epithet for her grandmother. Tenuta's tendency to comment on the material might have worn thin if it hadn't been countered by the powerhouse character work of local stalwarts Plotkin and Jacqueline Williams (now replaced by Dawn Wells--who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island--through June 2). Mother's Day weekend seems as good a time as any to catch this piquant blend of feminism and Judyism. Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln, 773-935-6100. Open run: Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 6 and 9 PM; Sundays, 3:30 and 7 PM. $24.75-$55; day-of-show student rush tickets available. Note: $10 from every full-price and group-sale ticket will be donated to the V-Day Fund, which supports local, national, and international organizations working to end violence against women.

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