Lightweight Review. Finding the light in an eating disorder

“Lightweight” is a sly and somewhat misleading title for Amie Enriquez’s solo show about her year-long stay at an addiction treatment center: Sly because the play is about her eating disorder, which made her a literal lightweight;  and misleading both because Enriquez is a skilled entertainer (not a lightweight)  who portrays some dozen different characters with precision and relish, and because her play, opening tonight at Soho Playhouse, is not all lightness and laughs.

But some of it is.

The Amie we first meet is chatty and cheerful, in droll contrast to the other addicts at the center, who are mostly morose and monosyllabic. And there are some funny and clever moments, such as Amie’s heart-to-heart conversation – half argument, half seduction — with a cupcake.

Enriquez with Cuppy the cupcake

Yet Enriquez also recounts the dark side of her personal story with little apparent effort at self-protection. The Amie we see on stage is herself in the flesh, not an invented character inspired by her own experiences. She makes this clear in two extended slideshows, one showing the actual drawings she created during art therapy at the treatment center; the other, photographs from her childhood paired with journal entries from her time in rehab.

Some of the obsessions, delusions and denials that she dramatizes can be read in retrospect as comical.  At a holiday dinner, she comes up with a different reason for rejecting every food offered – no meatballs (she’s now a vegetarian), no vegetables (they’re cooked in oil, to which she’s allergic), no bread (she drops it on the floor, and anyway “I might be allergic to butter.”) But other meticulous re-creations of her particular craziness struck me as more disturbing than amusing (although others laughed), such as her search for an ever more powerful laxative, to predictable scatological effect.  

Enriquez makes some effort to explain the origins of her illness: Her mother pushed her to be a child model; she was traumatized by being in New York during 9/11. At one point, she confides to Natalie, the only other anorexic at the treatment center: “Since I was a child, men have gawked at me and stared at me, catcalled me, grabbed and touched me without my consent. For as long as I can remember I wanted to become invisible. A ghost. To disappear into the cracks of a sidewalk whenever someone would so much as look in my direction….”

That Amie Enriquez is willing to have a theater full of someones staring at her for more than an hour while she bravely bares her life’s trauma, and even finds the humor in it, is the most obvious sign that “Lightweight,” for all its bleak candor, is a hopeful story of survival.

Soho Playhouse through August 26
Running time: 77 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $50-$60
Written and performed by Amie Enriquez
Directed by Lauren Weedman
Lighting design by Dalia Sevilla, puppet design by Chloe Badner, tech operater Dan Cohen

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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