At Capitol Fringe, ‘Thank You for Staring’ offers brave but unsatisfying look at vitiligo

Courtesy Patrice Gerideau and Capital Fringe Festival - Writer and performer Patrice Gerideau stars in “Thank You for Staring,” a Capital Fringe Festival play that explores the appearance-altering disorder vitiligo.

Patrice Gerideau lays herself bare in “Thank You for Staring,” a solo show that delves into the frustration, grief and embarrassment she felt after receiving a diagnosis of vitiligo. The disorder causes skin to lose its pigment, and that reality was especially wrenching for Gerideau, who is black and developed the condition on her face.

The show opens with a video of the storyteller slowly wiping off makeup to reveal the white expanses of skin around her eyes and nose. The movie could be a video installation at a local art gallery, and seemed to indicate a fresh multimedia approach. For the most part, though, Gerideau tells her story by speaking directly to the audience and reenacting moments from her past. Occasionally she slips into the personae of family members and acquaintances, from a destructive former boyfriend to an insensitive plastic surgeon, not to mention a homeless preacher who renounces vitiligo as the work of the devil.

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Gerideau’s bravery is palpable as she discusses wrenching episodes with a father who abandoned her and a cousin who abused her. And yet, the show feels simultaneously like too much and not enough. So much of the performance deals with ancillary issues, including family tribulations and losing her faith in religion, that it can be difficult to get a clear sense of how it actually feels to live with vitiligo. What was her reaction the first time a white spot showed up on her face? How did her family and friends respond?

The show, which is broken up into five “movements,” lacks some focus. And while Gerideau could work on her delivery at times, her mission remains worthy: to spread the word that great things can happen once you embrace yourself for who you are.

Thank You for Staring

by Patrice Gerideau. 75 minutes. At the Capital Fringe through July 27. Visit www.capfringe.org.

 
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