Rinse, Repeat: An Important Story Buried in Hackneyed Theater Tropes
Domenica Feraud's play about eating disorders lacks the substance to sustain it.
Rinse, Repeat is recent NYU acting grad Domenica Feraud's first foray into playwriting. Loosely inspired by her own experiences, the play, now debuting at the Pershing Square Signature Center, is an earnest drama with a lot to say. However, a reliance on traditional storytelling tropes waters down the play's message.
Feraud plays Rachel, a 21-year-old with a 4.0 at Yale and a case of anorexia that left her near death. For the past few months, Rachel has been recovering at an in-patient facility, but the play concerns her first weekend back at home in Greenwich, Connecticut. It's a trial experience to determine whether she can return to normal life under the guidance of her affluent parents, Peter (Michael Hayden) and Joan (Florencia Lozano).
Over a series of short scenes, we see the slackness of Rachel's parents at work. Mom, a high-powered attorney who's pressuring Rachel to follow in her footsteps, has her own issues with nourishment that triggers Rachel's condition, as well as a tendency to put her own clients first. Dad tries to force her to eat, but he's mostly too busy playing golf with clients and is maybe having an affair (one of the murkier plot points in the text). Even her brother Brody (Jake Ryan Lozano), who's off to Notre Dame in the fall, has his concerns elsewhere. But is Rachel at the point where she's able to take care of herself, or will she head back to the facility where she can rely on case worker Brenda (Portia) to keep her in check?
Rinse, Repeat, directed by Kate Hopkins, is at its strongest when it's dealing with the little moments of struggle in Rachel's life. How she places four identical bagels on her palm to see which is the smallest. The way she scrapes that bagel with the tiniest fleck of butter. Stripping herself completely nude for a more accurate reading on the scale. The struggle to get better. Feraud infuses these moments with a brutal honesty, the kind of meticulous attention to detail that comes with having lived through experiences like these.
Despite the game efforts of Hayden, Lozano, and Portia, I found it hard to buy into the traditional family drama surrounding Rachel's story. The frou-frou kitchen (Brittany Vasta designed the ungainly set), the marital problems, the bickering — Feraud buried an original, largely un-talked-about topic within hackneyed material and ended up undercutting her own valid points. Rinse, Repeat could do a lot of good for a lot of people, but it didn't have to be so bland.