Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: (Toronto) The Dysmorphia Diet (Fringe)

The Struggles
by Lisa McKeown

Written, directed, and performed by Clay Nikiforuk, this show is a story about the quest for well-being, inspired by a ten-year struggle with food and beauty conventions. I had a feeling this show might be good, and happily it more than lived up to my expectations. Nikiforuk takes to the stage with a fantastic script and a charming presence. 

She begins with some history on the invention of the human scale, and health insurance in the 1900s that was based on the presumption that the lighter you are, the less of a risk you are. She then moves into her own personal story, beginning with anecdotes from early childhood when girls begin to compare themselves to each other, defining 'fat' relatively, and the ways in which this determines social hierarchy between women from the get-go, something that definitely resonated with me as a woman. She moves through her development as a teenager, and then as a young adult in a relationship, and working at a yoga studio. 

The way in which she paints the world of the play is simple but effective: the set was stark, using only a plastic canvas of a woman's body to track her journey into bulimia, and the use of a laptop to delineate the times in which she gets sucked into the frightening world of online dieticians, framed by the eerie laptop light in the dark theatre. Her use of movement to move the action along and delineate scenes is beautiful and effective. She plays many different characters: herself at various ages, her boyfriend, her boss, various women and friends she talks to along the way, and has some comedic but also disturbing parodies of the different dieting schemes and the terrifying personalities behind them. 

But most of all, she has an important and personal story to tell of her descent into the neurotic world of eating disorders, and the various distortions of perception that accompany this kind of illness. Her use of metaphor, and, in some cases magical realism, as in the scene where she calls up 'body tech support' in order to try to get help with her 'model' that is 'malfunctioning' are both entertaining and insightful. This is a small, unadvertised show, but a definite must-see! 

July 2 - 13

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