Joyce's Choices: Body of the World

Publication date: 
May 20, 2016
Joyce Kulhawik

Tony Award-winning playwright, performer, and activist Eve Ensler’s body is her “pre-occupation and her occupation,” the focus of her body of work beginning with THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES and most recently her 2013 memoir turned stage adaptation now having its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater. IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD  is not for the faint of heart. I just saw it and was devastated by its truth and beauty.

Writer/performer Eve Ensler and director Diane Paulus have crafted a viscerally moving theatrical memoir, a painful and triumphant collage of experiences Eve has birthed from the ravages of her own childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father, through stage 4 uterine cancer in her 50’s, to her ongoing work as an activist in the Congo where war is literally waged on the bodies of women from 8 to 80 years old and who have withstood unspeakable rape and torture. Eve Ensler dares to speak it. All of it.

Ensler has found potent connections between her traumatic childhood in which she lost herself, and her cancer which led her back to the heart of her darkness and into the Congo and finally into the Body of the world which renews itself through the strength of the women there; they along with Eve are re-claiming their power despite the horrors inflicted upon them.

Ensler as a solo performer holds us fast with her huge spirit and energy. She is funny and heartbreaking, a drama queen and a dynamo, and just so completely present and full of LIFE. Every word is the real deal and we feel it. Paulus has figured out where and how to direct Ensler and stage the piece finding the beats of the story so that it feels organic, and makes literal as well as emotional and intuitive sense. Eve’s description of the humiliation she felt when a doctor performed a sudden invasive emergency procedure but wouldn’t look at her, conjured up the excruciating helplessness she felt as a sexually violated child. The scene, like many others, is palpably effective.

The video projections on a huge screen behind Eve are equally masterful. At one point Eve describes her chemotherapy– and I’ve had chemotherapy.  I relived the experience, as I watched a wild fire of chemo drugs spreading across a landscape of cells, igniting them, and painfully purging them of the scourge. This stage adaptation less detailed and further distilled is more powerful than the written memoir alone. The final tableau is a knockout. We find ourselves embraced in a lush jungle paradise, reborn and fully alive in ourselves and in each other. Thank you Eve. The piece is a beauty.  You MUST SEE “In The Body Of The World” at the A.R.T.  only through May 29!

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