Pizza, Vaginas, and Union Square
Wohoo – that got your attention, didn’t it.
Relax, don’t sic the FCC on me yet – this is ART people, it’s Theater (said: theeata). She’s baaack.
The ticket was a last minute invite from a friend, so I hot footed it from work (to sit in the worst traffic yet headed south across the Golden Gate) and grabbed an excellent slice of pizza at Blondie’s on Powell (regular readers will be glad to know that I had no problem getting both a single slice and a table, thank you very much). The summer fog rolled across Union Square as ill-prepared tourist ran for the warmth of their hotel rooms in the damp, breezy dusk. I’d almost forgotten how great the Union Square energy feels – and since I’m downtown so infrequently these days, the buzz of commerce was invigorating. I know it’s probably the most commercial of SF’s neighborhood (but c’mon, the Haight is just as bad, you know it is), but it’s also one of SF’s most cosmopolitan areas – one of the few neighborhoods that doesn’t need to mask itself in pretentious non-pretentiousness. It’s shopping and tourism and crowded and brightly lit and steps from Chinatown, the Financial District and I love it.
On to the show.
Here’s where it gets thorny.
I am so very grateful for the ticket, and so very glad for the chance to see the show – I think Eve Ensler broke new, important ground with the Vagina Monologues – they were fantastic, thrilling, with each proudly uttered, sadly sung, quietly whispered, or vibrantly shouted “Vagina,” women everywhere felt a little “hell yeah” rise within.
So when the woman next to me, whom I did not know at all, kept saying “oh my god” in glee or shock and said “didn’t you just love it” after the show, it killed me to have to cross my fingers as I said “sure.” It’s not that Ensler lacks passion – she has it and then some. She commands the stage well (I’ve certainly seen less life on stages packed with players). But the premise here, well, it felt a little old.
The Good Body is about being good, being good to your body, being good about your body, owning your fat tummy, your Latin ass, your large breasts, your unruly thighs, etc. And why do fashion magazines tell us who to be. And why do our mothers tell us we’re ugly. And why must we feel guilt for what we can’t control. And why why why, isn’t it funny, isn’t it sad, aren’t we all molested, and victimized and strong and women. Roar.
Except the themes, in spite of Ensler’s stage presence, come out like high-brow Oprah. (that knock you hear is the sound of NOW arriving to take back my membership card.) I identified with some elements of the show – primarily her reference to Starbucks maple oat nut scones (yes, they’re fabulous, I know it’s an evil corporation, but they have some tasty scones) and to frustration at being told to “lighten up when I’m already fucking funny.” But other possible connection points felt like throwbacks to late 90s pathos. Perhaps it’s just proof of my generation’s failing its feminist forebears. It just wasn’t as fresh as with the Monologues.
In an interview in the program, Ensler says “Fat is relative. Size is relative. Who decides?” In the show she riffs on Cosmo magaznie (evil! vile!) and almost every mother character she portrays betrays her daughter’s physical being and in doing so destroys her mental and spiritual self. Maybe I’m just too lucky, having had both a fantastic mother and father, to get it. But it gets to a point where you want to shout, enough! it’s okay! Your belly is fine. Move on, move on. Which is Ensler’s point at the end as well – but you can imagine how difficult is was to live with her along the way . . . .
In short – Ensler’s performance is characteristically strong, funny, and occasionally strikes a familiar chord with nearly everyone watching. But the ice cream she so passionately eats at the end is really tofrutti (no really, I met her after the show, she said so), and I couldn’t help but feel some of the themes felt non-dairy afterward as well.
But as LeVar Burton would say, you don’t have to take my word for it. Go support theater and see it yourself. Tickets are available online and the show runs through August 1st.