Theater review: Viva Vagina’s disparate parts would work better on their own

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From the April 25, 2013 edition

Last summer, a Michigan state representative was banned from speaking on the House floor the day after she said, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

That word automatically carries a charge to it, possibly because of its sexual implications, or perhaps it’s just because of how rarely it’s used in everyday conversation.

It’s seems as if Shadowbox Live’s newest Stage 2 production, “Viva Vagina,” is hoping to tap into a bit of that charge, as the show’s title is certainly enough to grab one’s attention. Once they have it, however, the troupe presents a mixed bag of female-focused skits, songs and standup routines.

The show’s biggest problem is that it can’t decide what kind of show it wants to be. Three funny and rather filthy standup routines are scattered between three short plays from Don Nigro, former writer-in-residence for the Thurber House. Although both sets of work have their merits, it’s a jarring juxtaposition and makes the show seem unfocused.

The individual works, however, are almost all successful in their own rights. Nigro’s “Ballerinas” is the story of three ballerinas (Stacie Boord, Leah Haviland and Amy Lay) backstage at a performance of “Swan Lake.” Their personal issues and an indifferent audience have left one of the dancers with the belief that she is molting.

Martha King De Silva, whose shorts were a highlight of Shadowbox’s “Killer Blues” show, is featured again with “The Waiter.” A woman (Haviland) goes to a new restaurant, only to run into her ex (David Whitehouse) on a first date.

While Julie Klein and Whitehouse deliver remarkable comedy routines, the stand-out here is Nickey Winkelman. Her hilarious act might be the most overtly sexual piece of the show, and almost no part of it can be republished in a newspaper.

The musical stage is a hodgepodge of songs, ranging from Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls” to Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” to Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Storm Large’s “Eight Miles Wide” is easily the highlight here, as it closes the show with the whole company joining what might be the strangest sing-along Shadowbox has ever done.