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Fat Pig

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Neil LaBute

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3955

SHOWING : February 10, 2011 - February 27, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Tom is in a great place. He's young, sexy and in top shape. Imagine his surprise when he falls for a plus-sized librarian, Helen. Will Tom hold onto his convictions and make the relationship work? Do the stereotypes of society and pressures of friends and colleagues keep him from making the right choices? See this edgy comedy where right and wrong take on a new dimension.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Andrew Houchins
Carter Jimi Kocina
Helen Jenna Tamisiea
Jeannie Maureen Yasko
Tom Jacob York
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Wallowing
by Dedalus
Thursday, March 3, 2011
3.5
The question is, what’s more important – our friends’ opinions or our own happiness? This is the dilemma faced by Tom, the surprisingly passive hero of Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig,” now being given an airing as part of Aurora’s GGC Lab series.

I am usually a fan of Mr. LaBute’s dark characters, the self-delusions and bad decisions that lead them down bizarre paths of cruelty and, sometimes, recovery and growth. “Fat Pig,” however, left me with a queasy bad taste in the back of my mind. Although the play pretends to be about the “dark side” of cultural attitudes towards the obese, it wallows far too much in “Fat-Bashing” (note the title of the play, after all) that it comes across as a vent from someone who just doesn’t like overweight people. And, by making its hero so passive and susceptible to his so-called friends’ opinion, he is more or less saying that that is the correct attitude to have.

Tom and Helen meet when they have to share a table in a crowded cafeteria. They immediately fall into synch, discovering a thousand points in common, especially a shared sense of humor. Before they even know each other’s names, they’ve made a date. It’s a dynamic, beautifully performed scene that promises the start of a traditional romantic comedy. Then we meet Tom’s friends, the sarcastic Carter who has a nasty word to say about everyone, and Jeannie, an attractive co-worker with whom Tom has had an almost-relationship.

Faster than you can say “with friends like these,” Tom becomes worried about how they’ll react to his attraction to a “plus-sized” woman, and they reveal themselves to have anything but his best interests at heart. Never mind that Helen makes Tom feel better than he has ever felt in his life, both with her pleasant companionship and with her enthusiastic love-making. Never mind that Carter reveals himself to be a true “fat bigot,” gleefully sharing a moment of his adolescence in which he publically shamed his overweight mother. Never mind that Jeannie soon turns into a jealous and vindictive shrew without an ounce of attractiveness about her. Never mind that Tom even admits his feelings of friendship for Carter aren’t even that deep. When it comes to the crunch, Tom is embarrassed to be seen in public with Helen, and it destroys the relationship.

In his more recent “Reasons to be Pretty,” LaBute shows us how we grow when we let our relationships transcend the façade of physical attractiveness. Here he had the opportunity to show that physical attractiveness itself is a “moving target,” that sometimes what (or who) we find attractive is outside the “cultural norm.” Here he does show that surface beauty often masks an inner hideousness. But here, he also seems to imply that that inner hideousness is preferable to an “inner beauty” masked by a few extra pounds (maybe even a few hundred extra pounds).

And I find that positively depressing.

Before I go off on a digression about the play I wish he would have written, let me at least praise this production. Jacob York brings to Tom a certain innocence and openness that made his final capitulation all the more aggravating. There were echoes of his performance in Pinch ‘n’ Ouch’s “Reasons to be Pretty” (will he be the “go-to guy” for all LaBute productions in the area?), which made me wish he showed more of that character’s eventual maturity. And I absolutely loved Jenna Tamisiea’s earthy and pleasant Helen. She has an attractive and openly honest face that is captivating, and makes it impossible to believe that Tom could not help but fall in love with her. It is a credit to her performance that, in the final scene, when she (in a dowdy one-piece bathing suit) is face-to-face with Jeannie (in the smallest of bikinis), and comes across as the more attractive (not to take away from Maureen Yasko, who looks positively delectable in that almost-a-bikini).

Jimi Kocina brings his usual charm to Carter, making us like him in spite of the despicable things that come out of his mouth. And, as just mentioned, Maureen Yasko is terribly attractive as Jeannie, until she shows her dark side, when she begins to make us long for the gentleness of her Katherine from last year’s Tavern “Shrew.”

Director Andy Houchins has perhaps staged a few too many scenes with a minimum of movement and with an equally minimum concern for sight-lines in the small GGC lab space. And that especially hurts the final scene, where Tom and Helen go through their final breakup rooted to their beach chairs. It added to my disappointment in the play’s conclusion. Still, the design of the production more often works than not (a small highly raised platform for Tom’s office, an expansive empty space for all of the scenes with Helen), and the pace is tight, in spite of all the frequent long monologues LaBute loves to write.

Okay, what would have made this play work for me? I would have liked to see Tom acknowledge that his relationship with Helen gives him more than his “friendship” with his co-workers. I would have liked to see Tom show an ounce of backbone in defending his own happiness. And I would have liked to see Tom admit at the end that he wants to be apart from his co-workers because he’s ashamed of THEM, and not of Helen.

But, that’s not the play that was written and that is being performed. As to what was written and produced, I can only express a profound sense of disappointment.

With all the wallowing in ”Fat-Bashing” going on, I can only assume Mr. LaBute wanted to have his “Tolerance Cake” and eat it too. Or at least he would want to eat it if it wouldn’t add too many extra pounds.

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)


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Chunky Porkers Rock!!
by playgoer
Monday, February 21, 2011
4.0
Neil LaBute's "Fat Pig," which is slated to open on Broadway in April, is being given a fine production at Aurora Theatre's black box theatre. This is an intriguing play concerning the relationship between an overweight librarian (whoops! "printed word specialist") and a handsome businessman she meets at lunch. The businessman's colleagues are looks-obsessed, and he doesn't have the guts to tell them about his new girlfriend. Misunderstandings and little lies pile up to sabotage the relationship.

The characters are all twenty-somethings, and the dialogue is peppered with the four-letter profanities endemic to the conversational style of their generation. The action takes place in a city that, to judge by the Fulton County book bag, is Atlanta. The work ethos of the businessmen, however, suggests a larger city, while the talk of the librarian taking a job "a few towns over" suggests a smaller one. The workplace environment seems driven more by stereotypes than by reality, but the whole play is dealing with stereotypes, so it's fitting.

The set makes use of a raised stage for the office scenes, then uses a playing area surrounded on three sides by audience for other scenes (restaurants, a bedroom, a beach). Britt Ramroop has done a fine job on the design, but director Andy Houchins doesn't do a very good job of having his actors play to the full audience. Seated scenes don't work well in this particular theatre, due to sightlines obstructed by the heads of audience members, but that's most of what we see, along with actors pointed in one specific direction for an entire scene.

The actors themselves are all first-rate. Jenna Tamisiea, as the title character (Helen Bond), seems a little actorish-broad in her first moments, but soon falls believably into her "jolly" and thoroughly likeable character. Jacob York, as her love interest Tom Sullivan, is earnest throughout in a subtly understated way. Jimi Kocina plays sardonic friend Carter with energy and comic touches. As for Maureen Yasko, a co-worker with a romantic history with Tom, well, she pulls out all stops in her powerhouse performance. This is a well-balanced cast that works delightfully well together. Costume designer Thalia Shepard has done a great job of garbing the cast in clothing that shows off or disguises each character's figure, as appropriate.

"Fat Pig" is a welcome addition to the GGC Lab Series at the Aurora, with its slightly edgy viewpoint acting as a contrast to the more mainstream offerings on the main stage. Neil LaBute has crafted an entertaining, engrossing play that audiences are cheering. "Fat Pig" rocks! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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