The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie is an important work because it explores a problem with self-perception that is as old as the mind-body distinction in human thought. The self-loathing that sickness, disfigurement, or monstrosity can inspire is a great spiritual problem, yet it is one that often goes unnoticed outside of tabloid reports—such as the widely reported case of Walter Hudson, who sequestered himself in Queens, New York, until he became so large that when he fell in a doorframe he was trapped and nearly died. Benno Blimpie’s character expands one’s sympathy for humanity, helping one to understand the mental anguish of people who seem revolting. The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie takes the psychological reasons for overeating seriously yet the relationship between food and love need not be a tragic one; Juzo Itari’s film Tampopo (1987) reminds one that the connection of food to sex, love, and desire may take almost any form.
The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie has special significance in Albert Innaurato’s work both as a representative play and as a text with biographical parallels. It was his first play to be produced in New York, and James Coco’s performance in the role was widely acclaimed. More than Gemini (pr. 1976), which uses realistic conventions, The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie impressed critics with the distinctiveness of Innaurato’s voice and perspective....
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