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A CurtainUp Review
Rinse, Repeat
reviewed by Gemma Lolos

She's the most powerful woman in the world but she's scared to eat a fucking bagel. — Rachel
Domenica Feraud and Michael Hayden (Photo: Jenny Anderson)
Domenica Feraud is both the playwright and the lead performer in Rinse, Repeat, which is having its world premiere at The Pershing Square Signature Center. (It's not a Signature production). Frustrated by the lack of representation of eating disorders on stage, the recent New York University graduate spent more than three years creating a piece of theatre she hopes won't be easily dismissed, the way eating disorders and the problematic thinking and fad diets that contribute to them often are.

Feraud's debut play is inspired in part by her own past disordered eating behaviors, but to tell her story she has cast herself as Rachel, a 21-year-old college student who is struggling with a severe case of anorexia and battling for her life. Her plot's reliance on all too common familial problems (marital bickering, an overbearing mother, a potential affair, etc.) do tend to diminish the dramatic impact of her message. Still Rinse, Repeat is more layered than one might expect from such a young and inexperienced playwright, in the way it effectively and often heartbreakingly illuminates how easily women of all ages can fall prey to eating disorders in a patriarchal society that rewards women for taking up as little space as possible.

We learn that for the past four months, Rachel has been at Renley, a rehabilitation center for people with eating disorders. She had lost so much weight prior to treatment that she had to use a wheelchair because her body would simply no longer support her, and she had stopped getting her period altogether. Being forced to adhere to a rigid diet and eating schedule and denied basic freedoms and privacy for her protection at Renley brought Rachel back up to a healthy weight. Consquently, Brenda, her caseworker, (a serious portrayal by Portia) has now agreed to allow Rachel to return home for the weekend on a trial basis.

Rachel is initially thrilled at the prospect of being reunited with her family— Joan, her mother; Peter, her father; and Brody, her younger brother, (Florencia Lozano, Michael Hayden, and Jake Ryan Lozano respectively) . But soon family tensions arise which suggest home might not be the safest place for Rachel in her recovery.

The plot appropriately unfolds almost entirely in the kitchen of the family's modern-day Greenwich, Connecticut home. Brittany Vasta's set puts the kitchen in which nearly every scene occurs to good use, with the counter often doubling as Rachel's bed and other furniture pieces serving as a bathroom mirror or closet. The focus on the kitchen makes the message abundantly clear: In this family, personal relationships to food take center stage.

Nicole Slaven's costume design fits the individual tastes and interests of the family. Rachel is clad in very loosely fitting attire to mask the body in which she feels so uncomfortable. Joan and Peter dress in more professional apparel, and Brody is in brightly colored athletic wear.

Feraud and Florencia Lozano give the most impressively nuanced performances. in a particularly arresting moment we seer Rachel open up her ponytail and let her hair out, then painstakingly remove every ounce of clothing from her body before stepping back onto the scale. Watching Joan make a massive production of mixing sugar into her plain Greek yogurt, only to chuck it into the garbage without having eaten a bite, make it easy to see where Rachel might have developed some of her harmful views about her body.

Peter (the terrific Michael Hayden) and Brody (a hilariously deadpan Jake Ryan Lozano) , are both athletic types who eat in enormous quantities and exercise regularly. Though not intentionally so, they are complicit in refusing to challenge and perhaps even encourage the impossible physical standards that women are expected to realize. Peter tirelessly prepares Rachel's meals according to Brenda's specifications, but at the same time splits a bagel with Brody rather than offering it to his wife, the only one in the family who hasn't already eaten. Brody happily spends all of his free time with his worrisomely (according to Rachel) thin girlfriend. When Rachel asks Brody whether his girlfriend actually eats her food when they go out to dinner, he replies that the last thing he would be interested in is dating a girl with an eating disorder. To this, Rachel fires back, "We're hotter when we're thin, but only if it's effortless, right?"

The mother-daughter tensions that resurface involve Joan's dreams for Rachel. A first-generation American, Joan worked hard to make the parents who came from Ecuador to give her a better life proud. Having made partner at a top law firm her push to have Rachel to follow in her footsteps began even before her daughter was in kindergarten. It takes only a few hours into Rachel's return home, for Joan to remind her to work on law school applications. But Rachel's true passions lie with writing, particularly with writing poetry.

Oona Curley's lighting design is most potent during the scenes in which Brody reads aloud portions of a poem written by Rachel. These are the only scenes that take place outside of the parameters of Vasta's kitchen. Everything is dark save for an illuminated Brody, and the words he reads are chilling and allude to some of Rachel's potentially suicidal thoughts. Ien Denio's crackling, scratchy, sizzling soundscape makes us consider what it might be like to be inside Rachel's head.

In Rinse, Repeat, a dysfunctional family collides with an illness almost impossible to overcome, and one that is shrouded in shame and dishonesty. In Rachel's case, the people who love her most and who have the best of intentions are not the people best equipped to help her heal. There is no magical cure; There is a disorder rather cyclical in nature and a healing process. Only Rachel possesses the power to help herself.

Feraud's dependency on all too familiar plot devices and characterizations impedes the play from achieving its dramatic potential. However, it is impossible not to be moved by Rachel's story.

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Rinse, Repeat by Domenica Feraud
Directed by Kate Hopkins
Cast: Domenica Feraud (Rachel), Michael Hayden (Peter), Florencia Lozano (Joan), Jake Ryan Lozano (Brody), Portia (Brenda)
Scenery : Brittany Vasta
Costumes: Nicole Slaven
Lighting: Oona Curley Sound/original composition: Len Denio Stage Manager: Yetti Steinman
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Pershing Square Signature Center/Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre (NOT a Signature Production), 480 West 42nd Street l 212.279.4200
From 7/16/19; opening 7/31/19; closing 8/17/19
Show Times: Tuesday-Friday @7:30pm, Saturday @2pm and 8pm, Sunday @2pm and 7:30pm.
Reviewed by Gemma Lolos at 8/03 matinee performance

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