As I Eat the World by Luis Roberto Herrera explores eating disorders from the perspective of a young Latino man.
While ideologies are shifting and acceptance is more than just an idea, gender bias and beliefs about ideal body images persist. Luis Roberto Herrera sets out on a brave journey to share his story of triumphs and challenges as he undergoes the laborious process of accepting his body and coming to terms with who he is. This is a challenging feat, coming from a man and more so a Latino man.
Herrera begins the show by eating. He approaches the bubble gum machine stationed on a table, which he will return to throughout the show. He turns the dial and a little ball comes out. He eats it in front of us. This is the world, he says. This bubble gum machine symbolizes his world filled with the demons he is fighting. For a person who has suffered from eating disorders, eating in public must be a scary yet cathartic moment.
He proceeds to go into detail about his eating history, which directly correlates to his cultural background. He shares stories of family parties, the eating habits often associated with family events, and the cultural pressure to eat! He refers to commentary frequently heard amongst Latinx communities: one is "either too thick or too thin." The comments and the criticism are often thrown around as terms of endearment, and although they may be said light-heartedly, the stinging effect is embedded- sometimes permanently. Being a chubby child, Herrera chooses the latter and begins his weight loss journey.
Starting his weight loss regime at such an early age meant he needed to have guidance on healthy plans and diets. However, he didn't, and therefore, he just stopped eating. This approach granted him the results he sought, so he continued, eventually adding purging to his process. He continued with these practices for years until he decided to get help. He voices his concerns and fears about how his healing is ongoing.
Herrera is a skillful storyteller, keeping the audience engaged and vested in his story. His emotive and empathic delivery connects with the audience, creating space for empathy. His performance goes hand in hand with the script. Overall, the writing works well, including some beautiful poetic language. Some moments could be trimmed and tightened, while others could be expanded. For example, the inclusion of dancers for brief appearances. Although they heightened the energy and were talented, Herrera nor the script needed them. The scenes that stood out the most were the ones that told specific stories and painted tangible images like the food list, the plates of food at family gatherings, and how he survived going on dates. It would be great to include more of these scenes.
As I Eat the World examines a world that men are often not associated with or given the space to speak upon. Herrera is courageous in bringing this play to audiences.
Check out our interview with Luis Roberto Herrera.
"As I Eat the World"
Written and Performed by Luis Roberto Herrera
Directed by Scout Davis
November 30- December 17th
The Tank (312 W 36TH ST, NYC)
Yani Perez, M.F.A, is a poet, playwright, translator, and educator. Her plays have been presented in various theaters in the United States such as La Mama and Yale University as well as internationally in Bogotá, Colombia. She works at IATI Theater, one of the oldest Latinx theaters in NYC. She is currently working on translations of Latinx artists in hopes of introducing them to English-speaking audiences.