FRINGE 2019 REVIEW: 'Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor'

"Diagnose This!" is a production that emphasizes the importance of fixing a broken system

"Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor" - Provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
Provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
"Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor"

As audience members file in, return Fringe artist Donna Kay Yarborough wears an old hospital gown and greets everyone with a friendly smile. “This is going to be very casual,” she assures us. And in most ways, she’s correct. What follows is a series of stories intertwined with stories and hard-learned — and sometimes physically painful — lessons. 

In Diagnose This! Tales of a Medical Actor, Yarborough tells real-life stories about her time as a professional “medical actor,” also known as a standardized patient. As a standardized patient, Yarborough acts as a living and breathing practice patient for medical students before they make the transition into the real world of shadowing doctors and dealing with real patients. It’s a job that requires empathy, an ability to think on your feet and patience. So much patience.

Diagnose This! feels, at times, like a motivational or professional speaking engagement. Yarborough has experienced each of the stories she tells first-hand, which lends a casual but sometimes less-than-polished feel to the performance. That intimacy serves the subject matter well. As she enters into discussions about the trials and tribulations of first-time gynecological exams, the open and safe atmosphere Yarborough builds places her audience at ease in a space where we can both listen and relate.

Adding some much-needed depth to the performance is Yarborough’s own story about a terrible patient-doctor interaction that almost cost Yarborough her life. It’s a story that, unfortunately, is not too surprising or uncommon, and one that ends with a strong theme: Believe Women.

Diagnose This! is a production that emphasizes the importance of fixing a broken system and doesn't shy away from the times when saying “fuck the system” feels more appropriate.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 15. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here. Check out more reviews from our CityBeat team here

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