In theater, as in life, the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions. And to be honest, the good intentions at work in this 70-minute play are profound and deeply felt. But the resulting production is about as subtle as taking a shovel to the back of the head, and roughly as entertaining.
Penned by Linda Daugherty, and performed by about a dozen young people, along with a handful of adult actors (some of whom have distinguished performing credentials), Eat, now being produced by the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory, is an indigestible lump of statistics, lecturing and half-hearted storytelling. And that’s too bad, because the subject of eating disorders is certainly important and deserves a better treatment.
Drenched with earnestness, Daugherty’s script often sounds like bullet points about anorexia and bulimia gleaned from Wikipedia. In a series of fragmented scenes, kids and adults act out a couple poignant moments (Juliette Regnier as a crippled ex-ballet dancer is one). But mostly, these are curiously isolated glimpses from the lives of those beset by eating disorders, along with their underlying psychological issues such as anger, low self esteem, etc.
All the actors play multiple roles, with so many multiples in play that it’s hard to ever develop a bond with any of them. The one exception is Amy, a teenager who is first complimented by her friends for her sleek figure, but who then spirals down. Alexis Floyd does what she can with this barely two-dimensional character, while Nina Domingue and Doug Kusak seem at sea as her woefully underwritten parents.
There isn’t sufficient character development or dramatic tension to sustain even a production this short. And that disconnect lessens the impact when sad or tragic things happen. This problem was exacerbated on opening night by some technical glitches (music drowning out dialogue, other recorded inserts too faint to hear) caused by a computer malfunction.
This well-meaning production, directed by Fred Sternfeld, is sponsored by several medical centers involved in treating eating disorders. And one hopes that those who attend will gain insights from some of the facts in the show, as well as from the talk-backs scheduled after each performance.
But solely viewed as theatrical fare, this dish needs to be sent back to the kitchen.
Eat (It’s not about food.)
Through May 2, produced by the Fairmount
Performing Arts Conservatory, at the Mayfield
Village Civic Center, corner of SOM Center
and Wilson Mills Blvd, Mayfield Village