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New Eve Ensler play hopes to motivate young women


“Emotional Creature,” a new Berkeley Rep play by Eve Ensler, is all about empowerment and diversity for young women.
And universality.
Ensler’s obituary undoubtedly will start with the phrase “creator of ‘The Vagina Monologues,” referring to her word-medley that’s been translated into 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries.
   
But now, while she’s alive and well and dripping with success, she’s into promoting what she calls the V-girls, members of a youth movement she believes will “amplify their voices and ignite a global girl revolution through art and activism” — to, in effect, reshape the world.
Ensler’s involvement stems from the fact that, according to the United Nations, “one in three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.”
The V, she explains, stands simultaneously for victory, valentine and vagina.
Cast of Berkeley Rep’s “Emotional Creature” brings Eve Ensler’s words to life. 
Photo, courtesy kevinberne.com

“Emotional Creature” focuses on all three of those elements in a string of disparate vignettes in a monologue-montage punctuated by singing and dance.

Consider the following:
• A high-school clique disses an outsider, keeping her off balance by changing from moment to moment who and what’s “in.”
• Youths jauntily swap sexual details with friends.
• Girls show obsessions with body image (focusing, for a change, on a nose job rather than boob enhancement) and clothing (short skirts are not an invitation to rape).
• Barbie symbolizes the unattainable — as well as the inability of women to communicate about their plights.
• Third-world women become sexually enslaved, or are forced to suffer clitoral mutilation.
“Emotional Creature,” based on Ensler’s best-selling novel, “I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World,” also rips stories from news headlines (or, perhaps, episodes of “Law and Order”).
It dramatically bares, for instance, the suicide of a gay teen not bullied by peers but rejected by her parents.
Although the show does inject sporadic bits of humor, most of its exposition and delivery are hyper-serious — ranging from melancholy ballads to an anthem-like piece that extols a dozen activists such as Angela Davis, Joan of Arc, Julia Butterfly Hill and Anne Frank.
A world premiere tightly directed by Jo Bonney, “Emotional Creatures” — which runs under an hour and half — is headed for off-Broadway in the fall. 
Meanwhile, each of the six current cast members — Ashley Bryant, Molly Carden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kaulkango, Sade Namel and Olivia Oguma — is a pro at a young age. Individual skills with accents are especially deserving of plaudits.
There’s always a touch of polemic in Ensler’s creations. “Emotional Creature” is no exception.
Before the show starts, for example, projected images include statistics that scream at you: “The body type portrayed in advertising as ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.” “When asked to cite their hobbies, 80% of girls aged 13-18 listed shopping.”
Once “Emotional Creature” begins, the proselytizing doesn’t end. Heavy-handed rhetoric runs wild: “Would you rather be called a dyke or a bitch?” “Would you rather be killed in a high school shooting or a nuclear war?”
When it’s over, cynics may find the play and its weighty messages to be an expanded update on the 1971 hit song by Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman,” aimed this go-round at younger females.
My wife, an older female, thought the show was impressive — and important.
That figures. She has a vagina.
I wasn’t as touched. I found it superficial and riddled with old news.
But then, of course, I’m missing that key organ.
“Emotional Creature” plays at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre‘s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley, through July 15. Night performances, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wednesdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. Matinees, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets: $14.50 to $73, subject to change, (510) 647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org.
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