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The Good Body

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A one-woman show is work and Ensler makes it look like a day in the park.

By Eve Ensler
The Repertory Theater of St. Louis
Directed by Peter Askin
January 3, 2006

I am a skinny bitch. Or so says Eve Ensler. Before seeing her new show The Good Body, I might have taken offense. Not anymore. Yes, I am skinny. And I’m definitely a bitch. But just as some women have difficulty losing weight, I can’t gain it. I hate it. Truly. I can’t stand the feeling of my own bones protruding from my skin. And that is one of the two things about my body I don’t like. My feet are the other.

Eve Ensler doesn’t like her stomach. They have a long-standing love/hate relationship. She has fought her stomach all of her life. She has given up bread because it is Satan. It is the Supreme Evil Lord of Carbs. She has joined health clubs and put her stomach in the hands of personal trainers hell-bent on torturing her with a giant exercise ball. Sit-up after sit-up, Ensler has battled her bulge, the mound that leads to her magical valley. She never considered loving it.

The Good Body is about every woman’s hate relationship with her body. Over its course, Ensler transforms into several characters: a Jewish matron who recently had her vagina tightened; a beautiful woman who had her breasts removed so people would see her; a famous women’s magazine editor (Helen Gurley Brown). We meet a chubby girl at fat camp who says that fat girls always swallow (you know it’s true) because they want to keep their men. She tells us of the joys of chunky-dunking: skinny-dipping for the large-boned set. We spend time with Isabella Rossellini. We are saved by a gentle Indian woman who teaches us how to love ourselves. And we meet Eve’s demons.

Ensler is a brilliant writer. I have read her plays; I have seen performances of The Vagina Monologues over and over and over and over; I adore her creations. She is equally as talented a performer. A one-woman show is work and Ensler makes it look like a day in the park. However, it’s a day that cleanses your soul. A day that allows you to reflect on your own demons and how you might exorcise them from their homes. Her performance had me laughing out loud (which I tend to not do) and cursing myself for not bringing tissues to sop up my tears. And there were tears. My soul was touched by the stories she told. They were more than relatable; they were real.

Director Peter Askin must have one of the easiest jobs in theater. How difficult can it be to direct a woman as talented as Ensler in a show that she wrote? Regardless, he directed her perfectly. The performance was nearly flawless. It was a celebration of life and womanhood. It was a call for unity among all of us to stop violence against women and hatred against ourselves, and Askin made sure Ensler’s message was heard.

Set by Robert Brill, costumes by Susan Hilferty, lights by Kevin Adams, and sound design by David Van Tieghem added beautifully to the show. (Although I would have really appreciated a better spotlight operator. Gotta keep the woman in the one-woman show continually lit; kind of crucial.)

The Good Body  is an amazing show, one that should be seen if at all possible. Ensler began the show by sharing, “When I was young and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered ‘Good. I want to be good.’”

Mission accomplished, Eve. Mission accomplished. 

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