By Tulis McCall
The topic here is one no one wants to talk about because it is elusive: eating disorders. In this case it is anorexia. Domenica Feraud takes the topic in hand and eventually sweeps us into the confusion and bewilderment that traps people afflicted with this disorder. That she takes so long to let the pendulum swing full circle causes this piece to miss the goal by centimeters.
Rachel is coming home after 4 months in a treatment center. We do not know this at first. We just know she has been away, and we know that both her parents Joan (Florencia Lozano) and Peter (Michael Hayden) are walking on eggshells. Rachel’s brother Brody (Jake Ryan Lozano) is more honest. He wants pretty much nothing to do with his sister.
Rachel is hanging on by a thread. The treatment center was intrusive and severe, but being at home under the overly watchful eye of her father and the spasms of attention her mother throws her way are doing little to help Rachel steady herself. It is not until a cautious but loving conversation with her brother that Rachel gets a hit of the love she needs.
In an odd twist this play takes place almost entirely in the kitchen. The design team has done no favors here as the table where people sit to eat is attached to the wrap around counter and located stage right. So the important moments of truth when Rachel is supposed to eat like a normal person are all but lost to us.
Feraud’s well-taken point is that disorders do not happen in a vacuum. People with these disorders (mostly women of course) are products of relationships that have taken years to evolve. Deconstructing them is the work, and it is defy represented by Brenda (Portia) who is not only Rachel’s therapist, but her demanding and determined advocate. The voice of reason in a desert of obfuscation.
Feraud traces Rachel’s journey like a clinician. It is the center of the play, so this makes sense. There are other elements, and critical ones, afoot here but these are glossed over until the final scene of the play when everything comes crashing down all around these people. Turns out Rachel is not the only one trapped by the feeling of never being good enough or smart enough or loved enough. The fact that Feraud chooses to withhold the goods until the final moments of the play is unfortunate. We lose out on the larger journey due to a lack of disclosure. The fact that Mr. Hayden’s performance lacked credulity, while the other actors were more than solid in their work, did not help either.
One technical note – if food is going to be on the proverbial menu during the performance, at least make it look appetizing. Make it look so good that we cannot imagine how Rachel can turn it down – put us in the mix. The food on this set looked like it had been around the block a few times. I would have passed on it myself.
None of these obstacles is enough to stop the message, however. Rinse, Repeat shines a light in places we rarely look. It is a much needed wakeup call, and I look forward to more from Ms. Feraud.
Rinse, Repeat, written by Domenica Feraud and directed by Kate Hopkins
Rinse, Repeat will feature Domenica Feraud as Rachel, Michael Hayden (Peter), Florencia Lozano (Joan), Jake Ryan Lozano (Brody), and Portia (Brenda).
Rinse, Repeat will feature set design by Brittany Vasta, costume design by Nicole Slaven, lighting design by Oona Curley, and sound design and original compositions by Ien Denio.
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036), with an opening night set for July 31 and a run through August 17, 2019. TICKETS