By Richard Ades
If the Shadowboxers are going to do a show called Viva Vagina, they really should include a production number in which an Elvis-impersonating drag king sings the title to the tune of Viva Las Vegas.
Also, for the sake of fairness, they really should plan a sequel called, say, Up With Penises.
Sadly, though, Shadowbox has announced no plans for a follow-up, and the current show does not feature any Viva Las Vegas takeoffs.
It does feature a musical number that’s even more fun and outrageous: Storm Large’s 8 Miles Wide (as in “My vagina is 8 miles wide”). But for most of its running time, this Stage 2 production is pretty close to the low-key spirit of Shadowbox’s long-gone spinoff, 2Co’s Cabaret.
That’s not a bad thing, but it does make the title a tad misleading.
As at 2Co’s, the evening is a combination of songs, one-acts and monologues. Three of the theater pieces are by 2Co’s mainstay Don Nigro.
Of these, the best is Ballerinas, an atmospheric tale that stars Stacie Boord, Leah Haviland and Amy Lay as performers in a run-down dance hall. The other Nigro works, in descending order of interest, are Genesis, in which Eve (Michelle Daniels) remembers life in the Garden of Eden; and The Lost Girl, a metaphorical piece about—well, if you figure it out, let me know.
Better than all three is Martha King De Silva’s The Waiter, in which former flames Ivy (Haviland) and Andrew (David Whitehouse) are chagrined to learn they’ve each arranged to meet someone else at the same restaurant. Boord, Amy Lay and Anita McFarren are also featured in this gentle comedy about a romance that fizzled for reasons that aren’t completely clear.
Besides 8 Miles Wide, a couple of the musical numbers achieve the feminist brand of outrageousness promised by the show’s title: Bitch (sung by Lay) and Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves (sung by Boord and others). Both are fun and nicely done.
But other musical highlights are considerably less fierce. Steve Guyer is a smooth stand-in for Joe Cocker on You Are So Beautiful; Julie Klein’s rendition of The Mind of Love is accompanied by a wistful/lustful dance delicately delivered by Lay; and Boord gives what could be the vocal performance of the year on When a Man Loves a Woman.
Though all of this suggests a show that only occasionally is as provocative as its title, a few monologues and standup routines do help to nudge it back into envelope-pushing territory.
The scariest of these, performed by Klein and based on “Being That Woman” by Morgan Moss, explains the difference between a “bitch” and a “crazy bitch” and speaks admiringly of Lorena Bobbitt. It might be easier to enjoy if Klein delivered it as a character rather than as herself—otherwise, you can’t help wondering if someone shouldn’t frisk her for sharp objects.
But I suspect the evening’s most outrageous act is the Nickey Winkelman standup routine that launches Act 2. I can’t say for sure because Winkelman was unfortunately absent on the night I was there, but her online videos suggest that her presence would go a long way toward making the show as vagtastic as its title.
Viva Vagina will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays through July 11 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $30, $20 for students and seniors. 614-416-7625 or shadowboxlive.org.