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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


The Good Body

The Good Body
(l-r) Laurie Klatscher, Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, Erica Bradshaw
A quote from the text of Eve Ensler's The Good Body, "While there is a war in Iraq, I am worried about my tummy," could be a sub-title for the play. It is this self-absorption with physical shape which interests and obsesses women of all ages, all around the world - and which is the theme of this sharply humorous piece. And the sage phrase is true here - Ensler is not laughing at, she's laughing with us. In this new staging, with three actresses, The Good Body should have women nodding with identification as an assortment of characters offer different outlooks on the usually internal over-analysis women are pre-occupied with when it comes to their bodies.

Previously performed as a solo piece by Ensler, the use of three performers opens up the piece, more cleary identifying characters and emphasizing the universality of the themes. Characters named and unnamed are performed by Laurie Klatscher and Erica Bradshaw while Brigitte Viellieu-Davis portrays Eve (Ensler). It is still Ensler's quest - that of exploring this focus on what our physical shape means about our character, success and confidence, and how we seek to fix what can't be fixed through surgery, exercise and worry.

Viellieu-Davis is a most natural performer in this role, and she makes an immediate and solid connection with the audience. The thrust stage is definitely her friend. If you don't feel a connection to the material personally, you will certainly feel the emotional connection of Ensler through Viellieu-Davis. She is winsome and unaffected. I admit to anticipating a distancing stridency when I read of the theme of the show, fearing a politically correct lecture in the form of theatre, but my fears were quickly allayed. And, yes, I imagine the women in the audience were comparing their own tummies with Viellieu-Davis' when she revealed it - I know I was. That most would react with a "what is she so worried about" to her soft but non-protruding example re-emphasizes the point that we are rarely satisfied, no matter what we look like..

Local actress Laurie Klatscher covers a lot of ground with portrayals from Helen Gurley Brown (superb) to a Puerto Rican Weight Watcher member (mixed, due to a problematic accent). She succeeds in quickly forming distinct characters and exhibits an assured openness on stage that is particularly appealing. Erica Bradshaw's roles are well presented, from a young fat camp attendee who enjoys the relief of "chunky dunking" (skinny dipping in the moonlight) to two women who have peace with their bodies: a seventy-four-year-old African woman who extols the appreciation of our bodes as individual and useful, and an Indian woman who is happy not seeking physical perfection.

Jeff Cowie (scenic design) and Marcus Doshi (lighting design) have fabricated an attractively simple and functional setting, and director Tracy Brigden ties up the goods in a succinct 90 minutes.

The Good Body doesn't provide any answers we didn't already know, except perhaps an underscoring through humor of the futility of constantly berating ourselves for not having the perfect body - whatever that is.

The City Theatre's production of Eve Ensler's The Good Body has been extended through November 4 (added performances: Wednesday, Nov. 1, 8 pm; Thursday, Nov. 2, 8 pm; Friday, Nov. 3, 8 pm; Saturday, Nov. 4, 5:30 pm). Single tickets are available by calling 412.431.CITY (2489) or visiting the Box Office at 1300 Bingham Street.


Photo: City Theatre


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-- Ann Miner

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