Eve Ensler is best known as the creator of "The Vagina Monologues." Her latest monologue, "In the Body of the World," is metaphorically all over the map. It's fueled by a manic energy and stuffed with a myriad of issues. While that might be off-putting to some, she presents herself as a most sentient being and a yearning artist whose palette extends far beyond the vagina.
Based on her memoir, the play concerns Ensler's personal journey from celebrated writer and activist to cancer patient and ultimately self-enlightenment. And she tells it in often graphic detail.
While helping to heal the ravaged bodies of rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she discovers that her own body is under siege by a uterine tumor. Over 80 minutes, she recounts the pain and terror that consumed and defined her during that traumatic period.
She divides the story into three chapters, jumping back and forth between hospitalizations, setbacks, and her work in Africa, where the horrendous victimization of women is almost too much to bear.
At times, it feels like performance-art-as-therapy in stream of consciousness fashion as she tries to come to terms with her illness and dysfunctional family amid the world's horrors.
But this is far from a downer; Ensler is buoyed by her loving friends, and she's a keen observer of human nature at its most ironic, peppering even the worst moments with pointed humor.
Liberals in the audience will appreciate her political jabs as well. Diane Paulus's direction is a huge plus, tying together the disparate elements with clarity and sensitivity. Giant projections enhance the effect, and a stunning reveal provides a life-affirming coda at the end.
As a cancer survivor myself, the work clearly touched a nerve. But physical illness is only part of this story. After her journey through hell, Eve Ensler is finally able to make sense of the brutal hysteria that rules our Mother Earth.