Review by Tulis McCall
This show nearly made the top of my head explode. It beings an entirely new meaning to the phrase Girls! Girls! Girls! This is a brilliant evening. Let me tell you a bit of how it all shakes out.
Caution – this is not for the faint of heart.
Ashley Bryant is the first to greet us as the teenager who is taking photos of herself until she finds just the right one to post on Facebook because 20 seconds Rashida says, that’s all you’ve got. Then they move on. And she is also the young woman who sings about her short skirt. Her short skirt has nothing to do with anyone who is interested in what is under it. She beams at us and says, “My short skirt/and everything under it/is mine, mine, mine.”
Molly Carden is the girl from the suburbs, whose sartorial tracking has gotten out of hand. She cannot keep up with the changes or with the sides that her friends take as if they were picking teams for intramural sports in the gymnasium. Her head is nearly spinning with the minutiae of being a teenager. Carden also gives us the story of a girl Bulgaria who is being held against her will and is certain she will soon die, which would be a relief.
Emily Grosland is the only gay woman in the story and, in spite of being perfectly butch, has a variety of sweet, innocent moments – like kissing a friend. She also has what it the unclearest of all the scenes as she becomes a gay girl in a wedding dress about to make a mess of her parents’ white, white carpet.
Joaquina Kalukango is the girl from Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo who shares with us her 8 rules for surviving sexual slavery. Rule number 1. Get over that girl thing: “this can’t be happening to me”. Rule number 7: Do not feel guilty about how happy you feel when you hear he is dead. Kalukango also plays Mary, the 13 year old the girl who climbs to the top of The Mountain of God in Tanzania seeking advice from the sky god Engai, rather than submit to a clitorectomy. I have a whole village after my clitoris. I cannot give it to them. I will not give it to them.
Sade Namei is the girl from Tehran whose parents forced her to have her nose “fixed”. She was more or less kidnapped, drugged and operated on without her permission. They hired a hit man to take my poor nose down. The only problem is that my nose was attached to me. With her old nose she had been a woman who was expected to do the unexpected. She was funny. She was trusted. Without her old nose she is pretty, but that is enervating. Pretty people are simply objects, and not quite real.
Olivia Oguma is the 15 year old from Kwai Yong, China who works in a factory where she attaches the final piece to one of the three Barbies sold every second. She attaches Barbie’s head. Barbie is a victim, she tells us. Barbie is controlled and deserted by the people who make and then own her. There are billions of Barbies. Imagine if they went from makeover to takeover. This is the young woman’s vision, her mission. She wills freedom from her head into each Barbie she touches. Imagine.
Lest this all sounds sad and disturbing, let me assure you that the chorus these women make together and the songs they sing are joyful and defiant and demanding. Not only do they sing, they are a cacophony of questions and reflections on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. These are, after all, teenage girls…. They combine their voices for rounds of Would You Rather, How To Be A Girl, Hunger Blog, Things I Heard About Sex, It’s Not A Baby – It’s A Maybe, and Emotional Creature. These actors are glorious. They shine. They dazzle. They explode like fireworks.
This is not en evenly written show to be certain, and perhaps it will get some tsk tsk tsks form the reviewing audience. Indeed, this audience did not jump to their feet as I did, but found their footing eventually. But for me it touched a chord that reminded me of the juicy, exuberant spirit I possess and easily overlook - so yes to them and yes to me.
Emotional Creatures is a show that reveals what young women say to one another when they think no one is eavesdropping. Eve Ensler and Jo Bonney have created a production that is greater than the sum of its parts. If you know a young woman, take her to this show. If you know a young man, take him. If you were ever either of the above, take yourself.
PS - The reason I am taking all this time to identify these terrific actors is that their photos are not featured in the program, just their names, so we have no idea what name belongs to which actor. This is an oversight of gigantic proportions, because it means that these women, like many of their sisters around the globe, remain anonymous. This is an error that should be corrected ASAP, folks. DUH!!!
What the popular press said...
"Warmth ripples from the stage ... The six actors onstage all exude a lively passion for the material that turns them into singing, dancing, rapping space heaters."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"These bright performers make it a worthwhile thing."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"The earnest, well-meaning effort ... has the dated feel of a ’70s-era happening, dutifully addressing its themes of young female empowerment as if working from a checklist.”
Frank Scheck for New York Post
"The collection of stories is powerful and poignant, and the tight-knit six-person ensemble boasts some breakout performances, though the free-for-all structure inhibits the work’s thematic through line."
Suzy Evans for Back Stage
"I have been a big fan of Ensler’s positive, forthright points of social view, if not always of the various works she has created. So it is with Ensler’s latest piece."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
External links to full reviews from popular press...