Hey, gents: Have you ever seen a production of The Vagina Monologues and wondered why your naughty bits don’t get equal treatment onstage?
Say hello to Beneath the Zipper.
Using a mixture of monologues and short skits, Oklahoma playwright Robert Matson’s “theatrical celebration of the penis” will be performed at Chicago’s Fringe Festival at the end of the month.
Matson wrote Beneath the Zipper almost 10 years ago as a sort of experimental project, assuming its content would keep Zipper from drawing much of an audience. Instead, the hourlong play ran sold-out shows for three weekends and has been brought back multiple times since.
The Chicago festival will mark its first out-of-state appearance.
“Sometimes I’ll just be sitting at work and just think, ‘My God, I cannot believe I’m going to Chicago,’” Matson said. “The closer we get to the date, the faster my heart beats.”
Although a great opportunity for writers and actors to spotlight their talent, the festival doesn’t pay any of those who enter. This weekend’s local showings of Beneath the Zipper will raise money to help cover food and travel costs for the five-man cast.
Zipper is mostly lighthearted fun, but Matson noted that some of it carries a serious tone. For instance, the skit “Boyfriends” is about a straight, HIV-positive male character talking with his gay co-worker about his fear of infecting his girlfriend.
For a less sobering moment, Zipper features another monologue of a man whose upbringing by nuns has resulted in him avoiding the word “penis” for fear of eternal damnation.
For some, perhaps the most fun part of Zipper is its audience interaction. In that vein, one memorable bit has actors showing how to properly put on a condom. No nudity is involved, so the humor stems from the creativity of the demonstration.
Mostly, Beneath the Zipper is about defying expectations. Matson remembers a heterosexual couple who were curious about the show, but had been hesistant. So he let them in for free.
“By the end of the show, they were laughing their butts off,” he said. “To me, they said, ‘This is not what we thought this was going to be,’ and I said, ‘That’s exactly my point.’ You come in, and it’s just a fun show, and if you let yourself go, you will have a heck of a good time.”