IT’S A BIT CHAOTIC INSIDE ‘YOUR MOTHER’S VAGINA’
There was an inherent awkwardness to my editor’s request, “I want you to review Your Mother’s Vagina at Hollywood Fringe.” Playwright/director Amy Chaffee is quite aware of the title’s projected discomfort. She has sewn it into the fabric of her two-hander journey through the convoluted friendship of struggling actress/bartender Leila (Beth Gudenrath) and part-time university academic/cocktail waitress Sue Anne (Rachel Hirshorn). Within three time-spanning scenes, they spend most of their communication focused on every aspect of the female reproductive system, including function, maintenance, societal significance, occupational opportunity, criminal potential and beyond. The time remaining is spent belaboring their unsuccessful individual careers and unsuccessful relationships. Chaffee’s directorial approach has Leila and Sue so individually self-involved that they primarily talk at and over each rather than truly conversing. However, when they do hone in on one another, the audience understands that something important is being related. It is an effective devise.
With most of the action set in an active Hollywood dining establishment with full bar, Leila and Sue Anne are usually either setting up to open this eatery or closing everything down, while often sampling ample amounts of liquid refreshment. In the opening scene, they establish their individual reasons as to why each is so uterine-centric. Single lady Leila has recently discovered she is pregnant while Sue Anne, whose life’s desire is to bear a child, has not been able to successfully carry a fetus to term. Childbearing remains an ongoing priority through all three scenes.
What also is ongoing is Chaffee’s lack of interest in staying on point as the lives of our two protagonists evolve over the years. The writer/director’s often-erratic dialogue does not follow a seamless dramatic throughline. Gudenrath’s and Hirshorn impressively inhabit their characters but at times struggle to make viable the thrusting shards of actual plot that Chaffee provides. By play’s end, the audience knows the state-of- being of Leila and Sue Anne, but hasn’t been given the opportunity to make the journey with them. Abetting the proceedings is the rear projected digital art of Craig Hall, which serves as an added underscore to Chaffee’s meandering plot points. And Amanda Knehans’ sets and props make good use of Sacred Fools Studio’s limited stage space.
The Hollywood Fringe debut of Your Mother’s Vagina might be considered its out-of- town tryout, prior to its announced six-city tour. It’s impressive schedule includes stopovers in Dublin, Ireland (July 14), an August 4-7 sojourn within Luxembourg, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, concluding with a run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, performing at historic Spotlites venue (August 4-7).
Your Mother’s Vagina plays Friday, June 10 (10pm); Saturday, June 11(9pm); Sunday, June 12 (11am); at Sacred Fools Second Stage, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Tickets available at: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3572?tab=tickets