A vibrant cast of energetic young women are currently making a bold “girl power” grab at the Pershing Square Signature Center, where Emotional Creature: the secret life of girls around the world, adapted by Eve Ensler from her similarly titled book, is making its New York premiere. The show sends out a strong message about female empowerment, even if some stories contained in the show are not as effective as they could be.
In a departure from Ensler’s best-known work, The Vagina Monologues, which was based on interviews with hundreds of women, the cast of characters in Emotional Creature are fictional creations, inspired by stories the playwright has heard in her global travels, but not corresponding to specific individuals.
Perhaps as a consequence of this method, certain sections of the piece feel overly clichéd. For example, in “Hunger Blog,” the company — consisting of Ashley Bryant, Molly Carden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namei, and Olivia Oguma — are members of an international Internet community of women with eating disorders. Director Jo Bonney aims for a farcical tone in this segment, but the sketch is too drawn out, and the humor just comes across as forced.
Several of the individual monologues have a stronger impact. Kalukango is riveting in the role of a teenager in the Congo, kidnapped and used as a sex slave for years. Bryant charms as a woman taking numerous photos of herself, trying to achieve the perfect Facebook profile shot. Oguma is hilarious as a factory worker in China who believes she is mentally embedding messages of revolution into the heads of the Barbie dolls she manufactures.
Grosland brings a sweet wistfulness to a girl who kissed another girl and found she liked it. After telling that story, the actress immediately launches into a haunting song filled with both sadness and yearning.
The show contains several such musical segments, with music and music direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. The best of these is the incredibly catchy title song, performed by the entire company, which ends the show on a high note.