New Theater Reviews

Eve Ensler

{mosimage} GO THE GOOD BODY Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues broke ground in 1996 with its focus on women’s relationship to their genitalia. In her latest work, the feminist activist and playwright uses her belly as a launch pad to critique women’s obsession with their appearance. Besides sharing the familial roots of her personal angst about her body (roots including a handsome dad and critical mom), Ensler portrays other driven women, including Helen Gurley Brown, still doing ab crunches at 80; a Latina named Carmen, proud of her butt but ashamed of her “spread”; and a heavyset gal at a fat farm raging at “skinny bitches” who make her look bad. There’s nothing eye-opening about Ensler’s message about the detrimental power of media images, nor are her character renditions especially memorable or outstanding. The large proscenium stage, with its inexplicably drab set, works against her also. But her warmth and wit ultimately compensate for the “haven’t we been this route before?” aspects of the show. When she introduces the African and Indian women she’s met — people who wisely know and love their bodies — her material takes on the empowering universality we’ve been waiting for all along. Peter Askin directs.  Richmark Entertainment and Jonathan Reinis Productions at the Wadsworth Theater, Veterans Administration grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Bldg. 226, W.L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (213) 365-3500. (Deborah Klugman)

GO INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA It’s Mardi Gras. Mark Broyard and Roger Guenveur Smith return with a “post-Katrina” version of their performance piece that’s been trotted about the country since the early ’90s. It received an L.A. Weekly Theater Award in 1993, and also earned Broyard and Smith the keys to New Orleans. They play on and around Travis Hammer's cluttered Creole shrine with fine-tooth combs suspended in the air as an open taunt to anyone with hair too thick to pass through those teeth, which are a stand-in for the gates of Heaven. This is a show ostensibly about being in the “club,” a buoyant standup/sketch comedy routine in which women are hauled onto the stage to dance to “When the Saints Come Marching In,” with these clowns in white suits and silk shirts, and the audience is grilled on their knowledge of Creole terms. So what is an octoroon? Shame on you for not knowing. Broyard plays straight man to Smith’s vain, grinning neurotic who in a sketch called “Creoles Anonymous” plays the sponsor (God help us). The sponsor undergoes a complete meltdown over obsessions with his hair, the shape of his buttocks, his genitals. In this mocking homage to ethnic pride, the clouds of Hurricane Katrina billow and build on screens behind the vaudeville, threatening to blow away not only a city, but an entire era of identity politics. This show may look and sound like San Francisco Mime Troupe street theater, but the weather, and those photos, have transformed it into a variation on Chekhov. Luna Ray Films and the Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 5. (213) 381-7118. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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