Last night I attended the opening of a Yuletide play that is both powerful and provocative. This show is destined to be an annual holiday classic. It is The Virginia Monologues, by Mary Xmas.
The stage opens, bare, save for the three actresses seated on wooden stools. Ah, but what each does with her stool. The lead actress, Ginny O’Hanlon, begins the evening telling us what Christmas means to her: “I believe in Santa. No one else will. But I envision him on my roof. Making his way to my chimney. Slowly, tentatively, he enters. The prancing, the pawing. Yes, come down my chimney, Santa, come!” And this goes on for another 17 minutes. The female-centric play will take your notions of Christmas and knock them around like a piñata in a hammer factory.
One can only cry out “You go, sister!” when Donna Cannelloni takes center stage, stating, “I will kowtow to the public norms no more. I will reclaim my Claus. Take back my Claus from the commercialism, the garishness. My beloved bearded Claus. Claus. Claus. Claus! How I long for your lap.” Intensity has never felt so intense.
Once you get over the shock, the wincing is hardly noticeable, though my mom did say, “I can’t believe they allow people to say that kind of stuff in public.” These two actresses, along with their co-star, Norma Moldanado, display the breadth and depth of the female views of the holiday. It’s Ms. Maldanodo’s turn to rivet the audience when she takes center stage, proclaiming, “Naughty or nice? Who are you to judge? Who are you to judge me? You say you’re a saint, yet you break into my home and go through my things. Then, placing a practiced finger aside your nose, you once again pass through my flue.” As directed by Martina Beardson and choreographed by Ellen Eager, the performance pieces are a symphony of language, crescendos of passion and mistletoe.
This is a show in touch with itself. And it touches itself repeatedly. Especially in the third act. They mimic the concept of the tribal tales, with each actress waiting her turn to speak, left seated in the dark until she is handed the “Christmas Spirit” stick which gives her the floor. The stick is made to look like a giant candy cane, enhancing the holiday spirit of the evening.
The women are in fine voice as they expose the genre biases of the season. As Ms. O’Hanlon reminds us, “Christmas ‘carol.’ Christmas ‘Eve.’ Joy. Noel. Holly. So much exploitation of women. A birth celebrated. A woman’s job now controlled by the male-dominated society. How typical.”
The Virginia Monologues is now open for its annual run. And run you will. It’s a play that will have you on your feet shouting, “Lighten up, already!” Playing at the Indulgent Theatre — that’s theater with an “r-e,” so you know it’s classy.