David Roberts, Chief New York Critic, Outer Critics/Drama Desk
Performances of a new off-Broadway play begin with previews, advance through opening night and reviews, and settle into a run of some indeterminate length depending on original projections of success and extensions, finally closing leaving the play’s actors and creative team in the beginnings of yet another post-closing bereavement process. But what of the play itself? Did the run of the play mean anything? Did the playwright proffer any rich and enduring questions that resonate beyond the play’s run? What might the play’s legacy be?
In her somewhat autobiographical play “Rinse, Repeat” which will end its extended successful run at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center on Saturday August 24, 2019. Domenica Feraud plays Rachel the anorexic high school student who has been in extensive treatment at Renley a facility specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. After fighting for her life there with the therapeutic guidance of staff member Brenda (a commanding and intuitive Portia), Rachael believes she is ready for a trial weekend back home with her mother Joan (a self-absorbed and toxic Florencia Lozano), her father Peter (an ineffective and weak Michael Hayden), and her brother Brody (an honest and authentic Jake Ryan Lozano).
Ms. Feraud uses foreshadowing early in her play to handily short circuit the process of exposition. No one picks Rachel up to bring her home: Rachel must find her own way home for the weekend trial visit. This could not be a more emphatic example of what is to come in the remainder of the play. Rachel is reentering the toxic environment that contributed to her illness. Her family system is broken and has only become worse in her absence. Her mother Joan is highly competitive and controlling and her father Peter does nothing but collude with the dysfunction. Only Rachel’s brother Brody seems to be the only family member able to escape the maelstrom of denial and co-dependence.
After a series of compelling flashbacks and the playwright’s skillful use of magical realism, it becomes clear that Rachel cannot stay with her parents and allow them to determine her future, her academic and career choices, and her well-being. She decides to return to Renly with Brenda. This is her only choice if she wants to choose life over death and wellness over the binging and purging cycles of anorexia. Joan and Peter are not even willing to fulfill the requirement of one parent being present when Rachel eats and assuring her meals are substantial including the required amounts of carbohydrates and proteins. Both are too self-absorbed and narcissistic to have the required ethos and pathos to have the needed concern for “the other.”
The rich and enduring questions raised in “Rinse, Repeat” transcend the content of this important play and are relevant to all decisions that affect the sustainability of life and the integrity of the ego strength required to experience healthy psychological growth. “What happens when the people you love most, the ones you believe want the best for you, are the ones causing the most damage without even knowing it?” “Where do you go when the place you feel you most belong might be the place that almost killed you in the first place?” No questions could be more profound or more existentially necessary. These are the questions that ultimately allowed Rachel to maintain a holistic and healthy control of her life and abandon the pernicious type of control that was slowly eroding her chance to live.
“Rinse, Repeat” features Domenica Feraud, Florencia Lozano, Jake Ryan Lozano (Mary Stuart) as Brody, Portia (Queen for a Day) as Brenda, and Michael Hayden as Peter.
“Rinse, Repeat” features set design by Brittany Vasta, costume design by Nicole Slaven, lighting design by Oona Curley, and sound design and original compositions by Ien DeNio. Casting is by Andrew Femenella, CSA.
For more information on “Rinse, Repeat,” please visit http://www.rinserepeatplay.com/#home.
Photo: Domenica Feraud and Florencia Lozano in “Rinse, Repeat.” Credit: Jenny Anderson.