One of the least shy talents in the American theatre will give ample voice to Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues come July 25, when Mary Testa joins the Off-Broadway hit. Testa, equipped with a good set of lungs and stage instincts borrowed from Merman, has effortlessly drawn focus in such shows as On the Town, Marie Christine and Tartuffe.
Joining her on stage will be Julia Stiles, Ophelia in the recent film version of "Hamlet," and Gloria Reuben.
Vagina Monologues, starring author Ensler herself, returned to New York the Westside Theatre Oct. 3, 1999, after previews from Sept. 21. Beginning on Feb. 8, a variety of actress trios have appeared in the work, the cast changing every two weeks. Vagina reveals a series of different women's stories and experiences involving their genitalia. New introductions to the monologues have been written for the various threesomes, who divide the text among themselves.
The current schedule runs as follows:
July 25-Aug. 6: Gloria Reuben, Julia Stiles and Mary Testa
Aug. 8-20: Brett Butler, Kellie Martin and Tonya Pinkins The roster of actresses who have appeared in the play so far runs as follows:
Feb. 8-20: Julie Kavner, Swoosie Kurtz and Audra McDonald
Feb. 22-March 5: Mary Alice, Amy Irving and Rosie Perez
March 7-19: Rita Moreno, Cynthia Nixon and Marlo Thomas
March 21-April 2: Shirley Knight, Andrea Martin and Alanis Morissette
April 4-16: Viola Davis, Gina Gershon and Annie Potts
April 18-30: Claire Danes, Jenifer Lewis and Mary McDonnell
May 2-14: Mo Gaffney, Marsha Mason and Lynn Whitfield
May 16-28: Diahann Carroll, Judith Ivey and Marisa Tomei
May 30-June 11: Joy Behar, Hazelle Goodman and Holland Taylor
June 13-15: Linda Ellerbee, Calista Flockhart and Lisa Gay Hamilton
June 27-July 9: Melissa Joan Hart, Carol Kane and Phylicia Rashad
July 11-23: Teri Hatcher, Ricki Lake and Regina Taylor
Joe Mantello, who staged Love! Valour! Compassion! on Broadway, is the director of the show.
$10 of each $55 ticket sold to The Vagina Monologues goes to the V Day Initiative.
For information on the Westside engagement, call (212) 239-6200.
In other news, Donna Hanover, the actress-broadcaster wife of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has re-committed to the Off-Broadway staging of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. She will appear in the show Oct. 16-Nov. 5.
Hanover had been announced to perform in the play this past spring, but, after a media furor connected to her husband's race for the U.S. Senate, she released a statement on May 1, which said "Due to personal family circumstances, I have decided to postpone my performance in The Vagina Monologues. I will work with the show's producers and director to set a date to join another team of esteemed actresses in the future."
Hanover did not get more specific regarding the "family circumstances," but her husband, who was then running for the Senate against first lady Hillary Clinton, had recently revealed he was suffering from prostate cancer and would have to undergo medical treatment.
Since then Hanover and Giuliani have separated, with the marital split being played out generously in the daily papers; soon afterwards, the mayor dropped out of the Senate race. Rick Lazio is now the New York State Republican Party's choice for the seat.
Hanover, seen in film and TV shows, was to have joined the cast at the Westside Theatre (Downstairs) for two weeks beginning May 30. The solo pieces that make up the evening are written by playwright-activist screenwriter Ensler based on her research, travels, interviews and experiences and explores the subjects of sexuality, orgasms, rape, empowerment, anatomy and love. The show began with just Ensler telling stories while seated in a stool, but now guest artists read her work in a rotating casting scheme that has proved popular.
Hanover has appeared in such films as "Keeping the Faith" and "The People vs. Larry Flint" and such soaps as "As the World Turns" and "One Life to Live." She is also a TV correspondent for "Good Day New York" on Fox in the New York City area. Hanover is not often seen with her husband in public.
Reuters reported that playwright-researcher Ensler is a friend of first lady Hillary Clinton and worked on her Senate exploratory committee last year.
--By Robert Simonson