There’s no shortage of one-person shows on Broadway this season, and joining those ranks at the Booth Theatre is Eve Ensler, she of Vagina Monologues fame. We’re happy to report that Ensler’s Broadway debut is a must-see, especially for any woman who has ever looked at her figure with disdain (and c’mon, who hasn’t).
The Good Body finds Ensler moving upwards from her vagina, spending time analyzing her mid-life obsession with having, yes, a good body, and a flat stomach. Ensler (like many of us) equates food with comfort. We hear about Ensler’s childhood. Remember Popsicles? Her father ran that company, but forbade her to indulge in frozen treats. Ensler briefly notes on being sexually abused as a girl, but does not elaborate. Still, enough information is provided to demonstrate the origins of her complex feelings on love, sex, the body, and food. Even after becoming a successful playwright and actress, Ensler continued to worry about her figure, especially her stomach. She candidly admits that while traveling the world to promote Vagina Monologues and her various charitable works, she managed to find a gym even in third world countries. Despite her remarkable achievements, Ensler’s self-worth rested too much on the external packaging. In a flash and trash world that encourages everyone to be model-thin and have tummy tucks and Botox injections, how does one come to terms with a normal, slightly Rubenesque body?
Ensler sought these answers by interviewing women from all over about their issues with body image. The interview subjects ran quite the gamut, with celebrities like Isabella Rossellini and legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown speaking with Ensler, as well as all kinds of normal folk Ensler met on her travels. Their voices provide some of the most interesting and poignant perspectives. There is the aging model with the plastic surgeon husband whose constant operations on her are taking their toll. There’s sassy teenage Bernice who wishes she could be a “skinny bitch,” but doesn’t want to have to give up her momma’s cooking. There’s middle-aged Carol who has vaginal tightening done, in hopes that it will titillate her husband. (It does). Ensler talks to people at the gym, at fat camps and spas, in doctor’s offices, and all over the world. Whether in India, New York, Afghanistan, or Africa, there’s hardly a shortage of women of all ages who share their stories. Ensler conveys these tales most convincingly. She’s an engaging storyteller, but also a superb actress. Ensler eases nicely into these other personas, portraying all with great dignity. She is funny and her accents and dialects are very good. We were particularly impressed with her take on Rossellini, nailing the inflections perfectly as she spoke of what it’s like to be dropped as Lancome spokesperson and model at age 40.
All technical aspects are excellent, as is Peter Askin’s direction, which is well paced. The Good Body is highly entertaining, yet strangely therapeutic. We may skip next month’s health club dues and see it again.
Also, see Gothamist's interview with Eve Ensler.