Berkeley Rep presents world premiere of Tony winner Eve Ensler’s ‘Emotional Creature’

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: 5/5 Stars » Outstanding)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Eve Ensler is the quintessential artist/activist. Best known for The Vagina Monologues (a play which has been translated into 48 languages and produced in over 140 countries), she has received an astonishing degree of recognition for both roles. Her artistic awards include an Obie, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. As activist, she has received recognition from Amnesty International ((Media Spotlight Award for Leadership), Planned Parenthood and the OK2BU Humanitarian Award for her contributions to the LGBT community. She has received multiple honorary degrees from various educational institutions. She has also been awarded the Isabel Stevenson Tony Award, a special Tony that recognizes a theatre artist’s humanitarian work.

The Berkeley Repertory Theatre has won a Tony Award for its work in regional theatre, and has sent several productions to Broadway over the past few years.

The debut of new work by Eve Ensler at The Berkeley Rep is a major theatrical event. It does not disappoint.

Ms. Ensler’s collection of monologues, Emotional Creature, is extraordinary work in every detail. An ensemble of six exceptional actresses sing, dance, recite, interact and emote to tell an astonishing variety of young women’s stories from around the world.

(from l to r) Ashley Bryant, Sade Namei, Olivia Oguma, Joaquina Kalukango, Emily S. Grosland and Molly Carden in Berkeley Rep’s world premier production of Eve Ensler’s Emotional Creature. Photo Credit: Kevin Berne.

Under the excellent direction of Jo Bonney (also an Obie winner), and supported with an original score by musical director Carl-Johan Lingenfelder and a design team that features Shawn Sagady’s cinematic projections, the six dynamic women inspire and astound for a breathtaking 90 minutes of theatrical magic.

Ensler’s monologues cover a wide range of experience, from a young American girl in middle school struggling with issues of popularity and self esteem to a teenaged Chinese factory worker reflecting on her experience on the Barbie assembly line. Olivia Oguma’s characterization of thirteen year old Chang Ying reflecting on the meaning of Barbie is one of the more memorable high points in an evening that is all high points.

Other monologues reflect on concerns such as cosmetic surgery, genital mutilation, food and body image and sex slavery. It’s not all about oppression and suffering, however. Friendship, dancing and physicality, emotional freedom and love are all celebrated. In a moving denouement, a collection of strong young women (all under 30 when they made their marks) ranging from Joan of Arc to Bernadette Devlin to Angela Davis to Julia Butterfly Hill and many more “refusers” are honored in a thrilling call out.

Emotional Creature is a distinguished piece of theatre, likely headed for Broadway and certainly destined for many future productions.

Emotional Creature continues at Berkeley Rep through July 15. For further information, click here.

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“Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler, produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Director: Jo Bonney. Scenic & Costume Design: Myung Hee Cho. Lighting Design: Lap Chi Chu. Sound Design: Jake Rodriguez. Projection Design: Shawn Sagady. Music & Music Direction: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. Choreography: Luam.

Ensemble: Ashley Bryant, Molly Carden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namei, Olivia Oguma.

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