BWW Reviews: THE GOOD BODY is Girl Talk with a Message
THE GOOD BODY, performed for one night only at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, is Eve Ensler's younger, less well-known companion piece to THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. It follows a similar format - a series of monologues told by a cast of women from a representative cross section of races, backgrounds and nationalities. But this time, rather than focusing on just one (previously taboo) part of the female anatomy, Ensler has broadened her scope to take on the entire female form.
The play is an entertaining and informative exploration of American women's relationship with their bodies and how that relationship is created and impacted by the male dominated cultural environment. Ideal (by male standards) body images, economic oppression, coupled with aggressive consumerism, race and gender discrimination, are just some of the challenges that women have to contend with in this society.
But, unlike THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, which broke new ground and has resonated with audiences all over the world, THE GOOD BODY follows a familiar path. While it's definitely thought provoking, it offers no really new perspectives or breakthroughs. And the stories seem more inclined to follow the stereotypes, rather than tear them down. Take, for example, the woman who relates how sorry she felt for her plastic surgeon lover when, during one of her many, routine operations, her heart temporarily stopped beating. Her own welfare is completely ignored. She has become the canvas for her man to use for his creative fantasies and she is already concerned that, when he runs out of body parts to work on, he will leave.
Similar attitudes are expressed by a woman who underwent vagina tightening surgery, primarily to please her husband and by several other characters who seem to regard eating 'healthy' food as some kind of punishment imposed upon them by society, in order to look a certain way. Instead of protesting these patriarchal, cultural norms, Ensler seems to have become a fellow victim.
If you think all this sounds like an unlikely vehicle for humor, think again. The overall impact of the energetic performance, coupled with the quality of the scripts, come together to produce a highly entertaining and engaging theatrical evening. There's no shortage of wit and clever one-liners throughout the play and the pace never flags. And, given the amount of hard work and dedication that clearly went into this production, it was disappointing to find it limited to just one performance.
Diets and botox, of course, feature prominently, along with shopping challenges and body shapes. One overweight young girl sums up her humiliation this way, "Like when I'm shopping in regular stores, they always keep the plus sizes in the back, like porn." Input from Helen Gurley Brown, Isabella Rossellini and Eve Ensler herelf, add further to the mix, together with contributions from a 74 year old Masai tribeswoman, a young Indian girl and a Puerto Rican woman. But, in the final analysis, there are no fresh perspectives or new insights here and THE GOOD BODY, engaging and amusing as it is, is not nearly as compelling as the rich collection of material to be found in THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. It is, nevertheless, entertaining food for thought.