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Boston Globe: "The Men Who Dared Are Pleased"


Females flock to 'Vagina,' but other half finds
illumination, too

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff

They were there.

The Brave. The Few. The men in the audience at ''The Vagina

According to Wilbur Theatre doorman David Gaboriault, five
passed through his turnstile at Thursday night's performance. But there were more - a clutch of unsuspecting husbands, several lone males surrounded by circles
of female friends, a pair of giddy performance-art fans,
and a random smattering of the just plain curious.
In fact, there's nothing in Eve Ensler's one-woman show
that would even remotely offend men. Surprise them, perhaps. Amuse them, for sure. Teach them something huge and unforgettable - well, it's hard to imagine anyone, male or female, who didn't walk out of the theater feeling a little smarter and a lot bolder.

Take, for instance, Ensler's paean to a certain crude slang
for female genitalia. Equal parts avant-garde art and stand-up comedy, the performance inspired a cross-gender, cross-generational chant to reclaim the word. It won't soon be forgotten.

''The woman on the other side of me was, like, my
grandmother's age, and she was screaming,'' enthused 30-year-old Peter Parisi of Milton.

''I loved that part!''

As it turns out, the experience was a positive one, almost
across the board, for the testosterone set, and often in ways they never imagined.

''I expected to be a voyeur,'' said 39-year-old Derek
Younger of Boston, who attended by himself. ''I expected to feel like a fly on the wall that maybe shouldn't be there. But I got inside, and it turned out to be one of the most fun, fascinating, multifaceted things I've seen in a long time. It helps you understand women, but it makes you think more about you, too. It's a really important lesson, that you have to understand your body.''

Those lessons aren't age-specific, either. ''It was very
interesting to have the things I knew explained in a different way,''said Don Manzelli of Woburn, a dapper gentleman of 72, who was invited by a
female friend. ''I did indeed get a new perspective.''

Only a couple of brave souls confessed to feeling

Jonathan Williams, 29, of Somerville, had no idea what he
was about to see before he and his girlfriend walked in. ''It was embarrassing, but in a good way,'' he said. ''You know, the kind of embarrassment you know you ought to get over eventually. The stuff about the clitoris was really interesting.''

Mark Disler of Melrose, who's 32, found the language a bit
shocking, but enlightening. ''I learned, I don't know ... different ways of ...explaining ... the organ, I guess. The different ... yeah. I understand women a little bit better now.''

Getting men through the door of the theater hasn't been
easy, according to David Stone, the show's producer. Especially in places like Detroit and Stamford, Conn., where the radio stations won't run ads for the show, claiming the title is pornographic. Of course, when
Brooke Shields starred in a New York production, men turned
out in droves. And women have always brought dates as a sort of litmus test for sensitivity, Stone says.

But as time goes on, and word gets out that ''The Vagina
Monologues''isn't a girls-only male-bashing session, men are feeling
comfortable attending.

''I certainly don't have a vagina,'' notes Stone. ''And as
a gay man, I haven't had much to do with one in a long time. But to me, it's about shame and secrets. It's about being comfortable with your body and your sexuality. It's about humanity. And if men can't relate to that, how interesting can they be?''

Odds are that Om Bhatia was the only man in attendance with
his teenage daughter, who had read the text of ''The Vagina
Monologues''for a college course and encouraged her parents to see the show with her. The 50-year-old Northborough resident wasn't the slightest bit squeamish about sitting beside his 19-year-old daughter during an aural rendering of several dozen different orgasms, he said.

''I think you see everything on television these days,'' he
said,''and also we are very open like that, very liberated. We want to make sure she does the right thing, rather than hiding from us. I would definitely recommend it to other men. And the women should go if there is something like a penis monologues.''

Awareness comes in many forms, as Ensler would surely
agree, and sometimes when you least expect it. Parisi - who attended with six female friends - found the show fascinating but says he learned the most from the reaction of the women around him.

''I realized that this is something we really don't talk
about a lot. And that I guess it was important for this to happen,'' he said.

Little did Parisi know that he had another lesson coming -
one he recounted with the gleaming countenance of one who has just solved a great mystery. ''At one point, I got up to go to the bathroom and was told that the men's room had been turned into a women's room,'' he said. ''I had to wait in a long line for a single stall. And I thought `Oh, god! This is what being a woman is like!'''