Fat Pig

By - May 7th, 2008 02:52 pm
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By Jill Gilmer

I eagerly anticipated the opening of Fat Pig, if only to learn who its catchy title referred to. The answer surprised me. Contrary to popular belief, the Fat Pig was not the overweight leading lady, played with perfection by Tanya Saracho. Neither was it her commitment-phobic boyfriend or one of his obnoxious co-workers, although any of them could have easily earned the title. The Fat Pig may well be society.

Fat Pig is a romantic comedy centered on a skinny, all-American guy named Tom who falls for a pretty but obese woman named Helen. The story explores the fall-out when two of Tom’s co-workers, Jeannie and Carter, discover the latest object of Tom’s affections. Carter, Tom’s misogynistic buddy, posts a photo of Helen in the company cafeteria in an attempt to shame Tom into ending his relationship with his overweight girlfriend. Jeannie, a beautiful and slender accountant who becomes obsessed with Tom after their brief romantic relationship ends, is equally incredulous. One of the funniest scenes is a cat & mouse exchange between Tom and Jennie in which she attempts to expose his lie about a recent dinner with “a colleague from Chicago” by demanding that he turn in an expense report. The colleague, of course, was Helen.

Playwright Neil LaBute attempts to create more than a simple romantic comedy. He tiptoes on social commentary by slamming society’s – and many men’s – obsession with thinness as the standard of female beauty. He also suggests that our rejection of overweight people is rooted in our own insecurities. During a rare moment in which Carter is not acting like a character from American Pie, he reflects, “We’re all just one step away from being what frightens us. What we despise. So we despise it when we see it in anybody else.” This is LaBute’s signature style: his depiction of immoral characters who preach about morality. Unfortunately, the script does not go far enough to develop these ideas on more than a superficial level.

More disappointing is this production’s failure to tap into the most intriguing element in the script, which is the opportunity to force the audience to turn a mirror on itself. How willing are we to fight for that which we believe in – even that which we love? LaBute seems to encourage the audience to root for Tom to have the strength to follow his heart. But this necessitates that they identify more closely with him. Although Braden Moran portrays Tom as a likeable enough character, he overplays Tom’s insecurities to the point that the audience feels more pity than empathy.

Despite these shortcomings, Fat Pig is an entertaining play. Director Susan Fete should be commended in her casting of Wayne Carr and Tanya Saracho. Both of them deliver outstanding performances. Moreover, casting Carter as an African-American and Helen as a Mexican-American plays nicely to LaBute’s slightly irreverent script. For these two performances alone, Fat Pig is worth the ticket price.

Fat Pig, presented by Renaissance Theatreworks, runs through May 18 at the Studio Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. For information and tickets, contact the Broadway Theatre at (414) 273-0800 or visit Renaissance Theaterworks online.

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