Regressive and toothless, The Vagina Melodies: Here We Go Again is Feminism 101 for the 80s | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Regressive and toothless, The Vagina Melodies: Here We Go Again is Feminism 101 for the 80s 

Its pep and cheer is matched by its obliviousness.

click to enlarge vagina_melodies_lead.jpg

courtesy the artist

Peppy, bright, and oblivious, this musical revue at the Cornservatory, first performed in 2016 and "updated" for 2019, feels like it was created during a middle-school sleepover in a small, all-white midwestern town. Propped up by the music of powerful black women—from the songs of Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, and Janelle Monáe to parodies of Ciara and Whitney Houston hits—performed by a cast of 13 white women, this may be the least-nuanced portrayal of feminism I've seen since the 1980s. Apparently nobody thought to include a discernible token from any other demographic.

Lacking all self-awareness, the show delivers a series of occasionally successful but mostly mediocre sketches. Hosted by the charming Deanna DeMay as Rosie the Riveter, the sloppy monologues could use more polish and structure. A lazy nod at celebrating famous heroines from history feels like a hastily written midshow book report. A parody of "Cell-Block Tango" from Chicago has the delicious potential to skewer rape culture; instead, it pulls its punches in favor of safer jokes.

Lyss Dutkanych displays hilarious comic timing as the Pubic Hairy Fairy, and in a sea of mostly good-enough-for-comedy voices, Briana Bower and Bryce Saxon provide a lovely rendition of Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" with great harmonies. The enthusiastic cast gives the show their all, and a bit about the lack of pockets in women's clothing is gratifying if not terribly original.

Still, the noninclusive Feminism 101 of The Vagina Melodies: Here We Go Again is regressive and toothless, especially in the way it ignores race, gender expression, and class. It'll be fun for anyone that finds the mention of a dildo the height of indecency.   v

Correction: One of the performers is, in fact, Asian.

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