Life Inside an Open Kaije bills itself as a play about growing up with diabetes, and so we enter the theater with certain expectations. We imagine, naively, that prolonged suffering generates profound art, that brilliant authors by definition cull their insights from excruciating lives, that a survivor of a dreaded illness can and should have something meaningful to teach us about the human condition.
Alas, Kaije, though written and directed by a diabetic, fails to enlighten us about much of anything, let alone the experience of diabetes. Instead, the forty-five minute production consists of a series of pedestrian vignettes that chronicles putatively defining episodes in the growth of a young diabetic, who must bravely confront a series of harrowing life questions. To wit: Why is my mother so annoying? Why don’t my friends understand me? What should I do with my life? Should I play basketball or perform in musical theater? Why won’t that girl go out with me?
In one immortal moment, the hero of the show, played by Gregory Joseph Twomey, speaks for all males everywhere when he cries, “I don’t understand girls!” Later, with a knowing smile, he sagaciously informs us, “Women: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!”
Aye, my friend. If such dialogue sounds rather dreary and cliché, it is, and the sincere efforts of a spirited cast do little to transcend the banality of the material. The most visceral compassion we feel for the protagonist’s travails lies in his ubiquitous insulin shots, which constitute the play’s most overt depiction of his malady. Beyond that, the play amounts to little more than a melodrama that could be describing the psychic insecurities of any American teenager. By confusing the experience of growing up with the experience of sustaining a real and devastating disease, Kaije ultimately fails to tell us much about either.