|Joaquina Kalukango. Photo: © Carol Rosegg|
By Eve Ensler
Directed by Jo Bonney
Featuring Ashley Bryant, Molly Garden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namel and Olivia Oguma
What's it about?
Based on Ensler’s 2010 bestselling book, Emotional Creature features a multi-ethnic cast that explores what it means to be a girl through a series of original monologues, stories and songs (Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) against a backdrop of video projections (Luam, Choreography, Myung Hee Cho, Scenic and Costume Design, Lap Chi Chu, Lighting Design and Shawn Sagady, Projection Design.
Girls in the United States obsess with their weight and with being popular at school. They sit around talking about sex; a girl from a religious family considers abortion for an unwanted baby. An African-American girl wonders whether having two moms makes her look like a lesbian. Another girl, actually a lesbian, reflects about a sexual encounter and her feelings of betrayal when the other girl snubs her at school, denying that anything happened between them.
Then things turn global. A 16-year-old speaks of being sold into a life of rape, torture and sexual disease; a young woman in the Congo provides coping techniques used while she was raped and impregnated by a soldier over two years; a 15-year-old Chinese factory worker expresses herself by sending telepathy messages through the Barbie doll heads she manufactures; a young woman in Tanzania prays to God to protect her from the female circumcision that awaits her.
Joaquina Kalukango is compelling as the women from the Congo and Tanzania. She manages to convey complex character and wide ranges of emotion in the short vignettes. The contrast about struggles in America and with those of girls in Third World nations is stark, but Ensler manages to show it without judging.
While the subject matter is based in truth and certainly is the life experience of some women, it isn't as reflective of the "every girl" experience Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) would like us to embrace. Many of the characters seem stereotypical. Middle class, white girls or girls grounded in self esteem, faith or motivated to pursue high-paying careers, for example, aren't represented here. And the emphasis is on girls -- all very young -- so women over 20 aren't going to relate personally with everything here (and well men, you're on your own.) Maybe "Some Faces of the Emotional Creature" would be a more accurate title.
Emotional Creature was first workshopped at New York Stage and Film at Vassar College with subsequent workshops in Johannesburg, South Africa and Paris. It is performed through Jan. 13 at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd St., NYC). Tickets: http://emotionalcreature.com; 212-279-4200.
Christians might also like to know:
-- It doesn't contain an official **MATURE advisory, but I would give it one.
-- Sexual dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain