Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

An Emotional Production of Eve Ensler's Emotional Creature

Also see Richard's review Salomania

The Cast
Eve Ensler's passionate new play Emotional Creature is having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through July 15th. Award winning Ensler, who glorified the social movement with her blockbuster hit The Vagina Monologues, now turns her thoughts to the lives of girls she has met, from the Congo to California. The fast-paced 85-minute energy-driven drama has six engaging young women, all under the age of 25, telling these stories. It is staged with passion by director Jo Bonney and choreographer Luam.

Upon entering the Roda Theatre the audience sees a large Cinerama-like curved screen where statements and graphics are projected showing the appalling mishandlings suffered by women all over the world. The stories are told by an ensemble cast of six young brilliant actresses representing girls from around the world. The gifted actresses exhibit unbounded energy and capability in morphing into the characters. They leap from one monologue to the next at lightning speed. Interspersed with these stories are spirited songs by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and Eve Ensler. Sometimes the songs are reminiscent of a pep rally.

The first vignette is touching, as a high school student, played by Molly Carden in a striking performance, is rejected by her best girlfriend so she can be accepted into a trendy dominant clique. The girl is ostracized from the "cool table" in the cafeteria where her friend will now sit. Following is a droll scene of girls from around the world twittering on the "thin craze" prevalent in our today's society. There is a splendid scene of a young Mideastern girl being forced by her parents to undergo a "nose job" to make her look pretty. Sade Namei is impressive playing the young girl.

Joaquina Kalukango is mesmerizing with heartfelt hurt and fury in an account of a kidnap and years of rape in the Congo, and moving as an African girl escaping genital disfigurement. Molly Carden also delivers a ferociously distilled impeachment of sex trafficking as a child raped and prostituted. There are lighter moments, especially when the audience hears about a pre-teen Chinese girl named Chang Ying (played poignantly by Olivia Oguma) who has worked in a Barbie factory since the age of five. She works twelve hours a day making the head of the doll. She transfers her thoughts into the Barbie's head. She hopes that the outside world will hear these thoughts ("Image if we freed them ... imagine if they went from makeover to takeover ... Head Send: Free Barbie ... Free Barbie ... Head Send: Free Chang Yee").

At the end of this amazing drama is a shout-out to women who have changed the world by not submitting to its indecencies, such as environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill, political activist Angela Davis, and Anne Frank.

The production will move to The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on October 21.

Emotional Creature runs through July 15th at the Berkeley Repertory Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-647-2949 or visit Coming next is David Henry Hwang's Chinglish opening on August 24 and running through October 7th.

- Richard Connema

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