Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Emotional Creature

Joaquina Kalukango. Photo: © Carol Rosegg
Emotional Creature
By Eve Ensler
Directed by Jo Bonney
Featuring Ashley Bryant, Molly Garden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namel and Olivia Oguma
Signature Center

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.

More information:
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:; 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
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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