The Whitefire Solofest Presents “Glutened”

The Whitefire Solofest Presents “Glutened.” Written and Performed by Catherine Ní Chonaola.

Imagine going through life bouncing from one health crisis to another.  One diagnosis to another.  One bulging stomach to another.  Catherine Ní Chonaola has spent much of her life wondering “What’s wrong with me?” So she wrote this rather brilliant play “Glutened” about her journey to health.

She creates a character, Lizzie O’Malley, who eventually and in a very convoluted and unexpected way during a psychic reading at a small storefront next to a really important appointment in LA that she was already too late to keep, gets a diagnosis about her terrible and mysterious health problems…Celiac Disease.  Not a prediction by the psychic, more of an educated guess, and none the less it set her on a grateful path to a relatively normal life.

We all hear about people becoming sensitive to foods, or allergic to whatever, but Celiac Disease is something entirely different. Both Catherine and her character, Lizzie O’Malley, can’t even be in the same room as gluten. I’m not kidding, or more accurately, Catherine is not kidding.  Except when she is of course and there is so much humor in this play I’m almost a little grateful for her unfortunate situation.

These days, of course, Celiac Disease is something treatable, manageable and more widely understood.  The problems it causes are pretty dramatic and Catherine does a brilliant job of explaining them through hilarious and beautifully crafted anecdotes from her life performed as her Lizzie character.  She apparently thought she was pregnant for three years – immaculately conceived of course as she was a teenager and pretty awkward to say the least, with a bulging tummy and daily sickness.

She has also written some wonderful music, hilariously singing her “Glutened” musical theme, guitar in hand.

Story after story, revelation after revelation, by the end of the play I was almost certain that several people I know have this disease and so I am eternally grateful for her candor, her warrior spirit and her brilliant skills as a writer and a performer.  “Glutened” is funny, insightful and glorious.  Catherine embraces her Irishness through Lizzie and her life without gluten and has emerged victorious from her battle for a pain-free, bloat-free and brain-fog free life.  Bravo!!