November is American Diabetes Month, and Broom Street Theater is doing its part to spread the word about the disease. Through Nov. 16, the troupe brings two diabetes-themed plays to the stage: The Sweet Lowdown and Two Diabetics.
While Two Diabetics is heavy on information, The Sweet Lowdown keeps the topic interesting and relatively light. Both works are presented with heart, though.
Sweet is a detailed personal narrative about receiving a diabetes diagnosis and coping with it. Whereas Two Diabetics uses dialogue to explain the hows and whys of the disease, Sweet uses tap dancing. Moody blue lighting and costumes, and plenty of original musical numbers, transform playwright and lead Mary Fairweather Dexter's diagnosis into a fever dream where she loses control of her own body.
This isn't to say that Sweet is extremely dark or avant-garde. Tongue-in-cheek scenes like "Vampire Phlebotomist" and "The Adventures of Billy the Beta Cell" keep things upbeat with WORT contributor John Morgan's lively baritone voice and a healthy dose of the bizarre. I am unsure if the bat that appeared to fly over the audience during "Vampire" came from Rob Matsushita's production work or awoke in the theater's ceiling at a ridiculously opportune time. Either way, good work, Broom Street Theater. I was terrified.
Two Diabetics has no bats. It begins and ends in a hospital waiting room, where Andrew (Donnovan Moen) and Barb (Wendi Stearns Peters) meet awkwardly. Andrew, a Type 1 diabetic, assumes correctly that Barb is a Type 2 diabetic because she is obese. The two characters flash back to the moments they found out they were diabetic and discuss the consequences that followed their diagnoses. Both types of diabetes are outlined with the precision of a medical textbook, giving the play an overly informative tone. That said, the information could help save a life.
Andrew relates Barb's experience to his own, in the process discovering some of his misperceptions about Type 2 diabetes, which often strikes adults who are overweight and sedentary. Barb typifies many of her disease's stereotypes, which makes these misperceptions harder for the audience to identify. In addition to being heavy, she is unable to correct her behavior when she's initially diagnosed with prediabetes. Making her character more complex and sympathetic, or adding a bit of flash to the performance, might have made the message about Type 2 diabetes easier to remember. But, like Sweet, this play shines the spotlight on the adversity and shame many diabetics face.