BWW Review: GUTS: THE STORY OF BOOBOO & ME Aims to Educate
Running for just one performance this past weekend at Notre Dame, GUTS: The Story of BooBoo & Me, written and performed solely by Marybeth Saunders, takes an intimate and extremely personal look at the devastating effects of eating disorders. On a simple stage with just a chair, small rug, and some flowers, Saunders delves deep into the story of her life and that of her sisters. It should not be called a story at all, but the real-life events of Saunders life and how eating disorders, among other heart-wrenching situations, have shaped her family.
The nature of the show is powerful. Using a binder as a guide, Saunders takes the audience through the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly of her family life. The show is raw and often at times, undeniably uncomfortable because of the topics at hand. It is even more so when you remember that the stories Saunders is relaying, are from her real life. However, that doesn't' detract from the show, but makes it more effective; this is the truth, and the truth isn't always easy to hear. To tell the events, Saunders switches back and forth between a present voice that explains and connects the dots of her life, to the voices of the past; her family members, other notable persons, and younger versions of herself. Saunders has the amazing ability of differentiating each person perfectly. She imitates voices, age-range, personalities, levels of emotions, and even genders different from her own, masterfully. One of the most powerful aspects of the show are the moments when young Marybeth Saunders is voiced. Saunders gives us a very profound look into her young mind, where the juxtaposition between her innocence and the circumstances happening around her are gutting.
There are personal details, quirks, and quips that make the show all its own; it's not just an outline of her life or the events that molded her, but an active memory onstage. This is her show, and she takes the time to tell it. The show is captivating, and not just because of its darker nature, but because the show is also highly humorous at times; the poignancy is in how Saunders has managed to balance the dark and the light.
With Saunders aim to "destroy eating disorders...one solo show at a time..." the education and support necessary to battle eating disorders is provided before the show even begins. An abundance of helpful materials, ranging from a resource catalogue on eating disorders to t-shirts with the quote "Flawless," are provided for the audience beforehand. This is no ordinary show where maybe a little foreword and some background information is added to the program, but a performance where the painstaking love, dedication, and hard work needed to create it is obviously put into every single detail. Saunders takes it a step further with the open-nature of the production by providing family photos with captions that the audience can look through before the show starts. By looking at the photos and knowing who is who, Saunders invites the audience to have a connection with the people of her story before she even begins; if we can imagine their faces while she tells us about them, it is easier to step into the story with her.
GUTS: The Story of BooBoo & Me demonstrates the power of theatre and its ability to help heal and more. Marybeth Sanders uses theatre for more than just catharsis, but to educate and advocate. She ends the show with a great message; she hopes that somehow, the audience walks away having learned something. Between Saunders goal to eradicate eating disorders one show at a time, and her advocacy for support and education on the topic, GUTS: The Story of BooBoo & Me has the power to, without a doubt, change how society perceives and deals with eating disorders.
You can see GUTS: The Story of BooBoo & Me the South Bend Civic Theatre on April 21st and 22nd at 7:30pm.