Old 'Vagina' finds 'Good Body'
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
"People make a fuss over people who are pretty," a character in Eve Ensler's production said.
"The Good Body," makes this proclamation that stands alone. It represents the theme of the entire show: beauty and a woman's battle to accept herself in her own skin.
The original one-woman play, written and performed by Ensler, is currently running at Ohio State University's Thurber Theatre. Ensler's is known for her previous work, The Vagina Monologues.
"The Good Body" is a beautiful piece of work. Ensler speaks through the voices of many women from different walks of life. Regardless of these women's social or economic class they are all obsessed with one thing: their bodies. Weight, plastic surgery, sexual desires and body art are subjects the characters wrestle with. Ensler does a brilliant job of capturing the issues of a contemporary woman.
Ensler speaks to the insecurities in each of us allowing our self doubts to breathe back to her, feeding her energy. Sitting in the intimate setting of the theatre, I felt each characters pain. The desperation, the unhappiness, the fears of the characters took hold.
As heavy as the subject matter is, there is still plenty of laughter. With the provocative dialogue and her use of satire on sensitive issues, there is no way not to laugh.
Ensler portrays plenty of memorable and funny characters. For instance, Bernice is a participant at a fat camp who complains about "skinny bitches" and how shopping for clothes in her size is a challenge because "they keep the plus sizes in the back of the store like porn."
Then there's Carol, who compares sex to eating crab because of the enormous effort and the little benefit she gets in return. Carol decides to gets her vagina surgically tightened to rejuvenate her marriage and herself.
The backdrop of the play is a photo studio. An interesting choice on the part Ensler, because all of the characters have a great deal of insecurities and a photo shoot is so invasive. To tie the photo shoot into the story, a bright flash of a camera bulb introduces each new character.
I was rather impressed with how well the story was written. The pace was steady, which kept the interest fresh throughout the show. Ensler expertly breathes life into each character.
The most important element of this story is the positive message that comes with it.
The show is also extremely entertaining. There is much to be learned from Ensler.
This show wouldn't be possible if these weren't pressing issues in our society.
"Women are in much pain. They have to deal with the way the mainstream culture treats them. The issues essentially begin occupying you," said Ensler.
It was evident that Ensler's audience had a great deal of respect and admiration for her, and it's easy to see why. She isn't afraid to throw out how she feels about herself. At one point in the show a character delivers a line that I think many of us utter in the morning, "I feel like shit."
Ensler opens the eyes of her audience to women of other cultures, showing that these issues of body image are universal. Ensler said this story is the most personal story she has ever told.
There are times, she said, when she "cries for two hours after the show, or just feels amazing."
Ensler engaged the audience in a question and answer session, a "talkback session", and her answers were refreshingly genuine. Ensler kept the honesty ball rolling and even though the majority of her audience stayed, the same intimacy felt during the performance was there.
Ensler was asked what she learned the most in doing the show.
"How isolated women are," she said. "Women have the power to change things. They should stop worrying about themselves. Women need to learn to stand up."
Ensler was asked how her body opened up after this show.
"(The show) changed my life forever. I understand all the self-hatred I had towards my body. I traveled around America and I see the extremes. I can feel the pain in the audience. It's almost like a spiritual practice."
There is a talkback scheduled for the Jan. 12 performance. Ensler answered all the questions thrown at her, even when she was asked how she stays in shape.
"I cry a lot," she said.
"The Good Body" runs through Sunday Jan. 15 at Ohio State's Thurber Theatre at the Drake Center. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Wexner Center members and $10 for students.