“Emotional Creature” Was An Emotional Roller-Coaster

Last week, my high school feminism class took a trip up to The Pershing Square Signature Center to experience a matinée showing of Eve Ensler’s new play, Emotional Creature,  based on her book I Am an Emotional Creature.

Stepping outside of my newly evolved feminist lens for a second, I want to establish the fact that this play lacked explanations that might’ve made it more appealing to those outside of an immediate feminist realm. I found it to be a play for those who already had a good understanding of feminist issues affecting girls. As a teenage girl myself, I found myself smiling and nodding to the familiarity of it all. Craning my neck, I could see my classmates’ eyes locked on the stage in a state of recognition.

Indeed, Ensler eloquently conveyed the vague funk of adolescence that engulfs our minds when we hit these crucial high school years. But I felt as though if I had not taken this feminism class, I might have missed the ironic element of the show.

Emotional CreaturePhoto Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Emotional Creature
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The play begins with Rihanna’s terribly catchy song, “Cockiness.” Then a series of vignettes about girls and their social experiences in high school begins. This part, although important to establish the subtle ways that teenagers in America deal with the complexities of being accepted, seemed to drag on slightly. I could see some of my classmates eyes grow dim to the superficial tone that is so over-portrayed in media targeted to our age group. It seemed like an episode of Suburgatory or Awkward.

Then, BOOM!

We’re all on the edge of our seats and my heart skips a beat when a thud of intense emotion drops on the audience. The tone of the play strikes a serious tone and suddenly switches to stories of girls around the world being raped and kidnapped. The stories were heartfelt and striking to say the least.

A girl in the Congo, kidnapped and raped: “He raped me three times a day every day, he gave me diseases and got me pregnant.”

A girl in China working in a Barbie factory, making Barbie heads, trying to get her message out to the world: “I don’t think anyone looks like Barbie…You have to do everything for her, not her fault…so many people control her–put words in her mouth.”

A girl in Russia, raped repeatedly by her brother’s best friend and made his sex slave for two years: “I am garbage, I am a receptacle.”

Even though the stories were intense and breathtaking, some of the accents detracted from the heart of the stories. I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t know any Asian girls with that particular accent. In fact, it reminded me of accents used in animated shows for kids that have one stereotypical Asian character. Accents aside, these deeper stories about girls globally were what made the play a success, rather than the more light-hearted scenes.

Emotional CreaturePhoto Credit: © Carol Rosegg
Emotional Creature
Photo Credit: © Carol Rosegg

In general, the play seemed like it lacked a certain cohesiveness. It begins with a subtly ironic tone in a high school setting, then explores the dynamic between a group of friends only to suddenly drop a nuke and zoom out to a very serious worldview. The play then zooms back into a sort of happy-empowering “my short skirt is not an invitation” song.

This made the pace of the play toy with my emotions in the same way a scary movie would. This, to me, was somewhat puzzling because the play also had a freeing, girl-empowering spirit to it. It had a little too much of the I’m-a-girl-and-I’m-emotional-so-watch-out-world-here-I-come thing going on for my taste.

I felt as though it could’ve been appreciated more if there was a steady level of drama. It felt like an attempt to sum up the definition of female empowerment into just under two minutes.

After saying all this, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the show. It was riveting and some parts were very relatable. I thought that Joaquina Kalukango, who plays the girl in the Congo, was extremely convincing and I realized that I had gotten tunnel vision while concentrating with all of my senses on the story that she was telling.

Overall, I really liked the play. It had a modern tone that I liked, and I really enjoyed the set, which was a compilation of all the things you might find in a girl’s bedroom. I felt like I was sitting in a friend’s room.

2 thoughts on ““Emotional Creature” Was An Emotional Roller-Coaster

  1. This is a perfect review. However, I found the play’s shocking change of scenarios, made it all the more captivating.

    It starts with a girl in high school feeling sad (if not a little bit over the top) after being rejected from the “popular girls”, but then it goes on to a group of girls on a social media blogging site, all discussing their strategies to remain “skinny”. Then suddenly, we are in a completely different part of the world experiencing all the different forms of sexism and feminist issues. The sharp, harsh and shocking switch between our world, and the world of a girl in Congo was extremely predominant and made me forget to breathe for a minute.

    I agree when you wrote: “to establish the subtle ways that teenagers in America deal with the complexities of being accepted, seemed to drag on slightly.” I also thought the scenario this girl lived in was as you said, “seemed like an episode of Suburgatory or Awkward.”

    However, I thought the changes of scenarios was necessary, and that the switch between
    “clinging-to-the-edge-of-your-seat” moments and the “feel-good-sing-along-moments” were good to keep the audience from leaving the space feeling completely defeated.

    I agree that it would be best to go into this play with an already informed feminist view. Particularly near the end when they were highlighting all of the accomplishments certain feminists in history have done.

    Overall, I think your review is brilliant, and nearly spot-on with my own opinion of the play.
    I did love it though, and it has stuck with me. The actresses were brilliant.

    1. You have a really good point, and I actually agree but I just think that the first part could’ve been a different play entirely. To me it felt as though the play resembled a white, hopeful page and someone took a brush and painted on a huge black and emotional mass of ink on it. But I also agree when you say that the transition was kind of startling and necessary, as though being awakened to it.

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