The subtitle of Emotional Creature, Eve Ensler’s girl-power monologues-plus-songs collage, is The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Initially, the stories of bullying, body image and sex-positivity get tags of internationality—in one scene, girls log in to a pro-anorexia message board, but it scarcely matters that one is British, another French. Each scene or song addresses that strange teenage mix of tiny and terrible troubles, like lunchroom snubs and unplanned pregnancy. Then, abruptly, we are in very, very deep waters. Lovely Molly Carden sobs through the tale of a Bulgarian girl trafficked by the police; Joaquina Kalukango shouts with rage as a sex slave in Congo. For 15 minutes, we are torn apart. And then there’s a song about how awesome short skirts are. The calculation here—abuse as climax—is galling.
A huge amount seems to be riding on the sense that these are “secret” stories, that Ensler gives voice to a voiceless population. Does it trouble us, then, that she interviews girls and then rewrites their words? Is it a worry that girls capable of their own creative outpourings have been turned into composite characters by theatermakers several generations removed? Ensler herself has no distinct lyrical gift; director Jo Bonney presides over a boppy, candy-colored production that seems about as realistically “girl” as anything on Nickelodeon. Ensler, of course, hit it big with The Vagina Monologues, in which she got a whole lot of people to talk merrily about those ladybits that had formerly gone unaddressed. This manipulative piece hasn’t got a tenth of that work’s anarchic, silly bravery. Ensler, it turns out, is a yoni trick pony.—Helen Shaw