“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.” Try to not care after seeing similar statistics projected across the rear wall in the Fort Fringe Bedroom prior to Breaking up with ED: Survivors Speak Out on Eating Disorders.
Whatever your experience, exposure or awareness of eating disorders may be, this show will likely surprise you with its mix of honesty, humor, and a refreshing lack of sob stories. Opting instead for the voices and experience of real people, director Angela Pirko has curated the performance entirely from interviews with eating disorder survivors as well as their therapists, family, spouses, friends and nutritionists.
Holding to the image that many survivors share of their eating disorder (ED) being like an abusive partner, Pirko weaves through and around characters, sometimes connecting their stories and relationships, all the while returning to the idea that ED “promises the world, but brings only pain.”
This five-actor ensemble (excellently handled by Caroline O’Grady, Rebecca Philips, Anika Harden, Stefanie Garcia and Vince Eisenson) employ stools and pull costumes from small boxes as they sweep through the pockmarked landscape of ED.
In one of the most affecting scenes, four of the actors beat a rhythm on their stools as a woman delivers her final, fervent breakup speech to ED, twenty years in the making.
Pirko knows when to lighten the mood and Eisenson supplies the humor as a husband who feels cheated on as his wife chases after ED, day after day. He describes being stuck staring at this, “mean, but really stupid hyena” abusing his wife in his own living room, monopolizing her attention and affection. His joy is real and shared as she begins to heal.
The production focuses mainly on high school and college-aged females at the moment they fall, stumble or slowly slip into various eating disorders. Interestingly, most of the survivors cannot explain why it began, it just did. The unanswered ‘why’ may not be an encouraging message for parents or friends of people with an ED, but it is an important reminder to love and buoy up with patient persistence those that are fighting through the disease.
For those that have or are currently battling disordered eating this may be a difficult reminder of physical and emotional pain. Yet each voice on stage is that of a survivor, people who have found healing and hope, people that are taking the steps towards health.
Pirko and her ensemble succeeded in their mission. The audience applauded long after the actors had stepped off stage. It was evident that people were not only informed but also moved by the stories. If you’re in the mood for a stirring, socially relevant production at Fringe than check out, Breaking Up With ED, all profits benefit the National Eating Disorders Association.
Breaking Up with ED has 5 performances, thru July 29, 2012, at The Bedroom at Fort Fringe610 L St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Rebekah rates this 4 out of a possible 5.