First, I squirmed. Then I squiggled. I crossed my legs, then re-crossed them. Drawing a deep breath, I wondered at one point if I might faint. Talk about visceral theater! Diana Wyenn’s one-woman show, Blood/Sugar, seen last night at the wonderful Bootleg Theater, goes granular, right down to the grains of sugar your pancreas is processing into your bloodstream as you watch it. A high-octane meditation on Wyenn’s youthful experience grappling with a hateful diagnosis — she got it 15 years ago at age 20 — with Type 1 Diabetes, Blood/Sugar is half lecture, half performance, half college class, half call to action. Yes, that adds up to four halves, all of which she packs into her one intensely compelling hour of recitation, self filming, dancing, unloading, educating, reliving — and taking her rapt audience along for the ride.
Since I was so highly influenced by Arlene Croce’s “Discussing the Undiscussable, an essay in which the critic stridently distanced herself from Bill T. Jones’s 1994, Still/Here (a similar reality-theater pageant concerning HIV/AIDS), I just gave up on trying to assess Blood/Sugar in purely theatrical terms. (Although I do believe it stands on that basis.) The pathos one feels for Wyenn drives the experience. As Croce so unambiguously put it, “I can’t review someone I feel sorry for or hopeless about.”
Wyenns uses text, dance, video and projections to explore the history and scope of diabetes, its various strains and permutations. But the main thrust of the drama is tragic. It is the tale of a talented and lovely young woman whose lot in life, as she cleverly labels it, is not a ‘death sentence.’ No, not at all. You can live to infinity as a diabetic. It is rather a ‘life sentence’ to be hampered by obsessive, gnawing, nearly paranoiac concern for the constitution of one’s blood at any given moment, even in sleep. And burdened by the rigors of self-treatment with insulin. But how inspiring the degree of agency she has taken toward her disease, by sharing her story through this highly complete performance package, followed by a nearly necessary unwinding in a q/a session with the audience. That my audience included others with diabetes was unsurprising, as Wyenn informs us, so many fellow Americans are stricken by this most deep-reaching and incurable, but manageable, of afflictions.
Recommended. But eat first.
Blood/Sugar | Bootleg Theater | thru March 29, tonight