The stomach, scientists say, is a “second brain,” a nervous system where learning, memory and emotion all take place. Liat Ron’s loosely autobiographical one-woman play, “Guts,” is the tale of a self-described “Israeli-American superwoman” named Hellthy who finds the intestinal fortitude to overcome an eating disorder, relationship problems and an excessive need for parental nurturance. An unusual mix of belly dance, multimedia and comedic narrative, “Guts” is currently running in the East Village in a production directed by Shoshona Currier.
One-woman shows about eating disorders have proliferated in recent years, including Amy Fortoul’s “This IS my BODY” and Cathy Plourde’s “The Thin Line.” But “Guts” may be the first play to take a Jewish perspective on eating disorders, even as many segments of the Jewish community, including the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, have seen a precipitous rise in these diseases. As psychologist Judith Ruskay Rabinor has written, the centrality of food in Jewish tradition often leads to emotional issues being interlaced with both dieting and overeating.
Ron, who was born in Israel to an Iraqi-Jewish mother and Russian-Jewish father, moved to New York at the age of 16. After studying theater at the Circle in the Square Theatre School, she starred in a number of downtown productions, including Israeli playwright Nissim Aloni’s “The Bride and the Butterfly Hunter” and Paolo Tartamella’s “The Busboy,” which was staged in an Italian restaurant. But after a wrenching break-up in 2007, she decided to move back to her parents’ house in Tel Aviv. Nine months later, she found herself attracted once again to New York, and she has lived here ever since.
“I felt like an alien walking around Israel,” Ron told The Jewish Week. “And I felt so regressed, moving back home. I realized that part of why I wanted to move back was to make my parents happy. But I also didn’t want to move out. I wanted to stay in that greenhouse that suffocated me.
Her eating disorder “sneaked in,” she said, without her being aware of it. It sprang, she concluded, from “trying to maintain an image as a superwoman, not someone who struggles or has struggled. I ended up hating myself and starving myself—starving my body, heart and soul.” Her aim in the play, she declared, is to “inspire, empower and educate—to touch people in their kishkes.
Ron, who got married this past summer, has recovered her own physical and spiritual equilibrium, partly through teaching belly dancing, which she calls a “leitmotif” of health in the play
Although she no longer lives in Israel, Ron supports the Jewish State through her work with Zionist groups in New York. In addition to serving in the young leadership of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), she chairs the cultural committee of Dor Hadash (New Generation), a volunteer network of American and Israeli Jews that sponsors activities relating to Israeli politics and culture. As she put it, “I feel like I’m doing more service to Israel being here than there.”
“Guts” runs through Nov. 20 at The Ninth Space, 150 First Avenue at Ninth Street. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 5 p.m. For tickets, $20, call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111 or visit www.9thspace.org.