Ensler's sober new play may seem like an unexpected astringent after her celebrity-studded performance piece and book, The Vagina Monologues, an alternately piercing and raucous series of vignettes that dramatize women's conflicts over body image and sexuality that continues to be performed around the country. Here, Ensler's major theme is the lingering effects of violence against women. Two American women--a well-heeled New York psychiatrist and her younger colleague--travel to a refugee camp intending to help Bosnian women ""tell their stories"" after the brutal war in Yugoslavia. Inexperienced in the field, the doctor learns to stop patronizing and start listening, while her more brittle companion retreats into therapeutic jargon. ""When we think of war, we think of it as something that happens to men in fields or jungles,"" says the award-winning playwright in her introduction. ""But after the bombing, after the snipers, that's when the real war begins."" Though deeply political, Ensler's work has no ideological axes to grind, nor does it linger sensationally on rape stories. Spare, self-reflexive and powerful, the play zeroes in on the real postwar conflict: the refugees' contempt for bland, professional talk therapy--and their overwhelming need, at the same time, for help in absorbing the damages. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (Feb. 2) Forecast: Though Ensler's new subject matter is darker and less familiar to American women than that of The Vagina Monologues (which sold more than 60,000 copies), Ensler knows her audience and how to attract attention (she appeared on Oprah last fall). Her five-city tour and print campaign targeting college newspapers, in addition to the play's opening in New York in March 2001, will ensure that her devotees take notice.
Reviewed on: 01/22/2001 Release date: 01/01/2001 Genre: Fiction