Thumbs up for Fat Pig

Okay, so I am a little late on the review of Fat Pig that I promised you. So sue me.

In a nutshell, I recommend it. If you want a comparison to the other LaBute works I’ve seen – the film version of In the Company of Men and Studio’s 2002 production of The Shape of Things – it’s funnier, but every bit as brutal. Possibly more so, since I think this script makes the lead characters more likeable but just as flawed as the leads in Company and Shape.

If you don’t want any of the story spoiled for you, don’t read any farther.

I can’t be unbiased about Kate Debelack’s acting since she’s a friend, but I can say that I think her character, Helen, is more likeable than the character who gets beat around in Shape, Adam. Any change we see in her over the course of the play is only for the better as she basks in loving and being loved, as compared to Adam in Shape whose newfound looks and popularity push him into some less than admirable behavior. If you compare Helen instead to Shape‘s Evelyn, she’s less two-dimensional, and that’s not just a pun on the show’s subject – Helen is strong and confident, but not abnormally so, where I don’t remember seeing Evelyn show any notable humanity at all.

Tyler Pierce does a great turn as Tom, really making us believe that his failings happen despite his best intentions to be a better man. If one can say there’s any positive growth in Tom at all over the arc of the play, it’s that he accepts his failings and weakness at last, rather than continuing to disappoint the women in his life by making promises and commitments he can’t keep. Maybe there’s happiness for him somewhere in the future, within his constraints.

Anne Bowles and Jason Odell Williams probably get to have the most fun in the show as Jeannie and Carter. Williams gets the lion’s share of the outbursts that make you laugh at the same time you cringe and Bowles gets to be a pretty unrepentant harpy. Both also get to have their moment in the sun where their previously one-note characters seem less shrill and nasty, respectively, and reveal some depth. The scenes could have been painful in less talented hands, but both actors deftly handle the exposition and make you at least a little sympathetic to their hang-ups. Williams’ is a little more poignant and also a little more terrifying in how some adversity can just as easily make someone callous as it can strong, where Bowles slowly trickles out the facts that make you realize that perhaps Tom deserves to be kicked in a shins a few times.

My only gripes about the whole show can be traced to LaBute’s choices, not Studio’s production. The relationship events for Jeannie and Carter near the show’s end seem somewhat pointless and the emotional peak comes a little too close to the end of the show for my taste – I would have liked a little more time to contemplate the resolution before the lights came up. They’re fairly minor quibbles, however, and I felt the experience was well worth the price of admission. If you’d like to see LaBute himself, Studio’s press release indicates he’ll speak after “a matinee” on the weekend of the 28th&29th. Too bad they don’t specify which matinee that will be, Saturday or Sunday. Call ’em and ask.

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