In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of dark memories and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.
Melissa, an ambitious young writer, and J.S., a successful but unsatisfied middle-aged psychiatrist, have nothing in common beyond the methods they have been taught to distance themselves from other people. As J.S. begins to feel compassion for the women whose tragedies she has been sent to expose, she turns on Melissa, who finds safety in control. In an unexpected moment of revelation, J.S. and the women she is supposedly treating find a common ground, a place to be taught and a place to learn.
Necessary Targets has been staged in New York by Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, and Calista Flockhart, and performed in Sarajevo with Glenn Close and Marisa Tomei.
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. . 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.