My Variety Review: Eve Ensler's "In The Body of the World"
“Do you have any idea who I am?” Eve Ensler tells a doctor from the Mayo Clinic after he suggests radiation therapy on her vagina as a preventative against the return of uterine cancer.
The audience certainly does, and shares the irony with the writer of “The Vagina Monologues” and founder of the international women’s activist movement, V-Day. In Ensler’s new solo show “In the Body of the World,” she goes beyond simply recounting her experience with cancer — and an intimate, shocking and touching tale it is — to create a bold, political work that is as personal and global as her signature work.
But it’s more than “The Cancer Monologues,” set in a loft apartment. In a production that unfolds and deepens in surprising ways — and is strategically staged by Diane Paulus — Ensler connects the cancerous attack on her body with those women suffering from afar. Specifically, she draws a line to the safe haven for victims of rape and abuse named City of Joy, which she helped establish in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But Ensler widens her lens even further in relating her own self-neglect, suppression and denials (which together led to Stage III/IV cancer), linking them to the same reactions that have led to the ravaging of the earth with floods, droughts and oil spills (the latter of which she grimly relates to her post-operative infection).It’s not as great a leap as you would imagine, and Ensler presents it in a thoughtfully laid-out narrative quilt, made up of engaging frankness, measured sentiment, smartly-timed revelations and disarming humor.
Her wry observations — bring on the drugs, the pot, the fart specialist! — and her confident, casual air certainly help when presenting, in short, episodic segments, the most intimate details of her treatment, and its accompanying roller coaster of emotions.