Eating disorders are not an easy subject to tackle on-stage. Narratives about eating disorders in popular culture can often come off as preachy or inauthentic. Senior Megan Molloy’s play “Almost-Never Land” avoids these pitfalls, due in no small part to the strength of its leading actor. Junior Tricia Duke portrays Leah, a girl struggling with anorexia, with dry wit and a tight-lipped smile.
“Almost-Never Land” works because it explores eating disorders through the protagonist’s relationship to the characters around her. Leah’s struggle with anorexia is gradually revealed through her relationship with Drew. Leah’s attempts to conceal this part of herself from Drew leads to a breach in trust that causes her to lose control. This is especially significant because Leah is a character who loves control.
The expanse of time that the play covers also helps to make it feel authentic. The audience is invited to watch Leah’s relationships (and the interwoven dialogue on anorexia) develop from childhood to young adulthood. Eating disorders in popular culture are often depicted as easily cured. The reality is that unraveling the psychological and physical harm caused by disordered eating and poor self-image takes a lifetime. It is a long, messy process of healing and accepting what cannot be changed.
The overlap of different periods in Leah’s life creates the effect of various selves taken out of chronological order. The complex structure mimics the weirdness of memory and addresses the multiplicity of identity. Leah is ultimately the product of her experiences and that self exists somewhere in the untamed, unraveling web that Molloy weaves through the accrued scenes. The audience comes to feel as disconnected from time as Leah feels disconnected from herself.
Leah struggles in silence for the most part, attempting to hide her self-destructive tendencies and feelings of inadequacy from the people she loves. Duke beautifully captures the stress this places on Leah and how it strains her relationship with others. The scene in which her mother, played by sophomore Paula Pierce, expresses her guilt over her daughter’s eating disorder. Pierce’s gut-wrenching regret speaks to Molloy’s characters’ very real fears of disappointing each other.
“Almost-Never Land” tells an important story in an interesting way. It engages the audience through the complex relationships that it portrays, managing to depict the issue with sufficient nuance. I am excited to see what “Almost-Never Land” will become.