By Bob Evans
Spinning Tree Theatre offers a different look into the “Me Too” movement with their current production, “Emotional Creature” as it looks at situations encountered by different girls in different cultures who bear similar situations of a patriarchal world-wide society that places women in vulnerable situations with similar obstacles to overcome.
Playwright Eve Ensler opens with six women chatting, prancing, dancing, and exposing the problems of female American adolescents seeking popularity, inclusion in the exclusive group, wearing the appropriate/acceptable shoes, starving to be the thinnest of the lot, explaining their notion of early, uneducated sexual encounters, and other teenage problems. What the audience learns first hand: insecurity runs rampant in a male dominated society.
Ensler’s play puts emphasis on Girl Power and the fact that women world-wide face the brutality of male dominance. What the play fails to do is provide a solution or plan for improvement. The play shines a well-needed light into the problems girls face and educates the audience on the seriousness of the problem. Some of the accounts are chilling; some situations, heartbreaking; some situations expose the ugliness of male supremacy. All show the results of these realities.
Each of the six actresses cast in this show connects with the audience in telling her story or stories as the characters, locations, and situations change. The audience knows not where the atrocities occur, however they soon learn of the dire situations young women face in those cultures. The snippets allow the actresses to create a character and give each situation to advance, showing the degradations of victims.
Watching the short one-act “Emotional Creature” reminds of high school Forensics competitions. The play is ripe for younger women to lift the stories for a dramatic interpretation or solo acting entry. Each story provides a powerful statement about the young female experience. The opening scene shows the American view of popularity, beauty, group acceptance, and mean-spirited jabs at the social acceptance and shows little of the extremes faced in other cultures. But as the story progresses, the audience sees peeks into deeper American problems.
The play definitely features ensemble work by the cast. Mostly unnamed in the individual scenes, the focus remains on the situations of young women, so names become unimportant. Expect strong performances from all members of the cast. Opening night, the performances of Madeline Campbell and Mikala Sullivan carried the most dynamics. The stories they presented seemed to grab the audience more than some of the other stories.
For “Emotional Creature” the directing duo of Chioma Anyanwu and Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst selected six local actresses to bring this story to life. The cast is Ai Vy Bul, Madeline Campbell, Allison Jones, Deanna Mazdra, Mikala Sullivan, and Emily Vargo.
Especially noticed: the choreography of the first number. “Emotional Creature” is not a musical but does contain some music which adds to the experience. That and the scenic design stood out for this production.
Providing the theatre magic falls to the Creative team composed of Jeff Paltz, lighting design; Shannon Smith-Regnier, costume design; Warren Deckert, scenic design; Jeff Eubank, sound design; Pamela Baskin-Watson, music supervisor; Victoria Barbee, assistant stage manager; Megan Greenlee, stage manager; Michael Grayman-Parkhurst, producer.
“Emotional Creature” runs Jan. 17-Feb. 3 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre and is presented by Spinning Tree Theatre. The newly added seating replaces the former seats and stairs, providing more comfortable seats, shorter stair-steps, and more leg-room for guests. The new seating does reduce seating capacity but provides much more comfortable seating for patrons. More information and ticket sales can be found on the Spinning Tree Theatre website. www.spinningtreetheatre.org
Tags: Spinning Tree Theatre, Just Off Broadway Theatre, Emotional Creature, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment