Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fat Pig by Neil LaBute, Theatre en Bloc at the Off Center, October 3 - 20, 2013

ALT reviewFat Pig Neil LaBute Theatre en Bloc Austin TX

by Dr. David Glen Robinson
and Michael Meigs

Theatre en Bloc produced this Neil Labute play, directed by Derek Kolluri, at the Off Center in east Austin. The two-word title, Fat Pig, is one of the most succinct and apt descriptions of the premise and theme of a play ever.

The play is about bodies and human beings’ reactions to difference. In exposition, Charles P. Stites in the secondary role of Carter spoke the insightful passages, about how we don’t trust differences of any kind, including especially those of overweight. He offered this to enlighen and comfort the profound discomfort of his friend Tom (Ryan Hamilton) at being in love with an overweight woman (Helen, played by Zena Marie Vaughn).

When one exposes a shred of difference, one stands out from the herd, and the herd turns on one with a vengeance. This play could serve as an archival index of advanced derogatory terms for overweight people, starting with “whale” and “tank” and growing worse from there. Mild terms like “fat” and “plump” were not included. Helen, as one so exposed, sought protective coloration in her job as a librarian, or “printed word technician.”

Playwright Labute, having explored this premise colorfully, seemingly wrote himself into a corner when it came to resolving some of its issues and ending the play. Carter’s recommendation to the discomfited Tom was this: you’re only young once, go out and live like it. Like what? Carter’s point seems to be don’t waste your youth dating fat girls.

Those who know and appreciate Stites particularly enjoyed the irony of his characteristically assertive performance. In real life -- or at least in the Facebook semblance of it -- he's a great admirer of Rubens beauties, euphemistically referred to as 'plus sizes.'

Labute doesn’t elaborate much on life goals. Carter drinks in bars and seeks one-nighters with more appropriately shaped women, a behavior pattern that's hardly a road map for people trying to navigate their youth. His self-satisfied arrogance is contradicted forcefully in the play by Jeannie (Jenny Lavery). Jeannie, at the age of 28, laments the youth lout pattern and wonders angrily if all men are like that --by which she means lying, drinking, triflers. Jeannie’s sad, frustrating experiences with men are a source of anger for her, and that rage erupts into the one scene of stage violence in the play, well executed, on which everything pivots. We take Jeannie’s point clearly. But with that Labute is finished offering us kernels of insight.

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