EMOTIONAL CREATURE another Eve Ensler blockbuster.

(Left) Joaquina Kalukango (Upper Right) Olivia Oguma (Above Left) The six talented young women perform in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Emotional Creature, a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

EMOTIONAL CREATURE by Eve Ensler. Directed by Jo Bonney. Music by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA. 510-647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. June 14 – July 15, 2012.

EMOTIONAL CREATURE another Eve Ensler blockbuster.

Berkeley Rep’s ambitious credo is “we’re trying to change the world, one play at a time.” In doing so they have mounted plays by forward thinking women artists such as Lynn Nottage (Ruined), Anna Deavere Smith (Let Me Down Easy), Nilaja Sun (No Child), Sarah Ruhl ( The Back Room, or The Vibrator Play),Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologs) and most recently Dael Orlandersmith (BlacknBlue:Broken Men). They have done it again with the world premiere dramatization of Eve Enslers latest book I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World which made the New York Times bestseller list.

This time around the Tony Award winning Ensler has teamed up with noted South African song writer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder and brought aboard Jo Bonney who is well known at the Rep to direct. Whereas The Vagina Monolog began as a single woman monolog with Ensler playing all the roles, Emotional Creature was created for six young women, all under he age of 25. It was a brilliant move and the 85 minutes playing out on the Rhoda Stage will keep you spell bound. Be advised it is not for the faint of heart.

Before the show begins graphics are projected on the curvilinear scrim/screen posting the appalling abuses suffered by women all over the world. They presage the tales that are to be told by the six energetic young ladies who bounce on stage with dance steps you will all recognize. But when they began to play the game in song of “Would You Rather?” the choices they offer each other initially humorous but end up as being horrendous. It is an omen of what is to come.

Considering what does come, the first vignette is heartbreaking when the High School girl (Molly Carden) must reject her good friend to be accepted into the dominant clique. Many of the audience will identify with her predicament especially after she herself is rejected. Rejection at that age can be catastrophic and Carden’s facial and body expression reflect her inner turmoil.

This is followed by semi-sweet scene of the girls from around the world twittering about how to remain thin while one girl cannot resist temptation of junk food. The semi-sweet atmosphere does not persist when one realizes that the “be thin craze” leads to bulimia.

Things began to get more unnerving when a teenager (Sade Namei) with a big nose (possibly Armenian) who is happy playing the class clown with her prominent proboscis is forced by her parents to undergo a rhinoplasty “to make her pretty” when she prefers life as the class clown. Her plaintiff last line, “Skinny is the same as pretty.”

Then Ensler gets down to the rough stuff and it is not a pretty (pardon the word) sight. Abuse, rape leading to sex slavery, female child sex trafficking, lesbianism, female genital mutilation (excision of the colitis), suicide and child slave labor.

Joaquina Kalukango has the audience gasping with monologs about being abducted at age 14 by a soldier in the Congo and held for two years as his sex slave. She gains further accolades as a black girl running away from her village to avoid being circumcised and pleading to God for protection. Another gem is turned in by Olivia Oguma as an uneducated child working in a Barbie Doll parts factory that begins in a humorous vein but ends with a tear as she cries “Free Tan Yee!”

The musical interludes are folded into the action and are all energetic. Three that stand out are “My Short Skirt”, the untitled “I Dance Song” and the finale “We Are the Girls.”

The total evening is a taut 85 minutes ending with a tableau as the six recite the names of 12 young women who have dared to stand up and not back down in meaningful situations and are models for future generations.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldintermagazine.com,