Diana Wyenn does life in a way most folks don’t have to. She performs a daily — almost hourly — balancing act between two substances. Each is something she needs in order to live, but each can also kill her.
The two are food and insulin; Wyenn has diabetes. In Blood Sugar, she takes us on a hair-raising journey that began 15 years ago on a London subway train. Along the way, we learn facts that come laced with pain, fear, and sometimes hope. We feel the constant terror of a disease that can’t be healed, but can throw you with a moment’s warning (or none at all) into a coma or death. We hear lines from Shakespeare as if we’ve never heard them before.
(photo: Mae Koo)
How does Wyenn do all this? An actor, dancer, and vivid storyteller, she weaves the experience from her body, voice, and soul. Her fierce, subtle artistry is augmented by lights, projections, recorded sound, and a live handheld camera (which she at times brings with her in leaping, spinning, rolling on the floor).
What is so powerful about Blood Sugar is that we are swept up by Wyenn’s magic art (and the deft help of her assistant spirits) and we’re taken on this fight-for-your-life journey with her — whether we want to go or not. Just as she was.
This is not a victim story. Moments will terrify you, and what must be endured may make you weep; but this is a triumphant tale, the confession of a canny survivor who’s had to take a breath and improvise at every step — and who emerges laughing, with victory in her teeth, each day.
In an hour, those of us who don’t live with a chronic deadly disease come as close as humanly possible to understanding how it feels. Those of us who do wrestle daily with mortal illness feel, “Ah! Someone knows what we suffer.” And all of us begin to see that we’re living in the face of our own dying, waking gratefully and using whatever we have to win another day.
Wisely, a talkback (with Wyenn and a diabetes professional) is part of each performance, giving audience members a chance to discharge the energy the show has summoned.
The program credits nine assistant magicians. Chief among them is Laban Pheidias, who orchestrates everything from an onstage booth (and as her husband, partners Wyenn in each day’s improvisations). Joey Guthman’s simple set and explosive lighting, Jason H. Thompson’s engulfing projections, and John Zalewski’s impeccable sound, create an omnipresent, ever-shifting context. To Wyenn’s masterful Prospero, they are invisible Ariel.
Blood Sugar is a powerful, harrowing, joyful piece of theatre — true theatre. Created from suffering, it brings us together, our souls trembling as they touch.
WARNING: You have only two opportunities to share this unique experience — tonight, and tomorrow night. It may change your life.
Blood Sugar, written and directed by Diana Wyenn.
Presented by Plain Wood Productions, at the Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd., LA 90057.
Tonight and Friday at 7:30.