Eve Ensler’s compelling life story is beautifully enhanced by Diane Paulus for MTC.
By: Patrick Christiano
February 8, 2018: Tony Award winner, Eve Ensler, a world-renowned author, playwright and activist, best known for her Obie Award winning play The Vagina Monologues is back on stage at Manhattan Theater Club. Her new monologue, In The Body of The World, based on her acclaimed 2013 memoir of the same name, recounts her experiences surviving uterine cancer. Ensler chronicles in detail the surgeries and medical treatments she endured along with the personal experiences she gleamed from her ordeal with the cancer.
This is tough stuff! Ensler first learned of her diagnosis while working on The City of Joy, a project she co-founded to assist women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so the piece makes organic references to the atrocities done to women in the Congo, while drawing comparisons to her own nightmare. Throughout the emotional turmoil Ensler finds moments of bracing humor and is always searching for some deeper meaning to what she is going through. The result is a compelling, if often self-indulgent, evening that frequently feels like a therapy session.
The stylish direction by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus enhances the evening with extensive use of impressive projections, both moving and still, that nicely supplement the text. However, the wonderful staging also accentuates Ensler’s limitations. Although she acquits herself nicely, Ensler is not the most natural performer to take to the stage, and asking less from her, as the performer, might have been better.
In the evening, told in three segments, Ensler confronts her demons, delves into her complicated relationship with her sister, and makes peace with her dying mother, all while battling cancer. The final segment, “Second Wind,” delivers an essential message about confronting death, talking about the process and getting a “second win.” The brave evening may be more therapeutic for the performer than the audience.
In the Body of The World is now playing at Manhattan Theater Club, NY City Center Stage I at 131 West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. The Off-Broadway engagement, which officially opened February 6, 2018, is a co-production between A.R.T and MTC and plays a limited engagement through March 25, 2018. For ticket call 212-581-1212.
A series of post-show discussions are scheduled to follow select performances of In The Body of The World. Special guest speakers include Tony winner Cynthia Nixon, Christine “Mama C” Schuler Deschryver (Director of City of Joy and V-Day Congo), Mayo Clinic Oncologists, Valisia LeKae (Motown The Musical), and more.
The discussions are free of charge and are open to anyone attending that performance. The schedule can be found at BodyoftheWorldplay.com.