Be prepared for laughs–good hearty laughs–but with a price, because Neil LaBute’s play, Fat Pig, that opened Feb. 7 at The Living Room confronts honesty–brutal honesty– as each of four characters displays harsh looks at their hidden insecurities as their safety net layers slowly bubble to the surface.
LaBute’s play sets the audience on edge from the initial entrance of Helen, deftly portrayed by Kenzie West. Helen enters, mostly faces away from the audience to eat her tray of pizza, salad, dessert at a solitary table to set the theme of loneliness and trained, forced isolation. Audiences feel the pain from the beginning, and then, enter Tom, played by Bob Linebarger, an uncomfortable gentleman out for a lunch and looking for any vacant seat to enjoy his lunch. To his dissatisfaction, the only available seat lies next to Helen, the “Fat Pig” of the play title.
Pushing the envelope characterizes LaBute’s work, but the printed word needs skill and gentle massage to transform it from print to live action. No one pushes the envelope like director, Bryan Moses can and always does. Fat Pig is an amazing show and the playwright had the audience on an edge from the beginning. Great staging and direction from Moses enhanced the incredible acting. Fat Pig looks brutally into some far too real characters. Moses’ eyes twinkle when he sinks his teeth into an edgy piece. Audiences experience his edgy style from the get-go in Fat Pig. Not only does he create the mood of awkwardness and isolation immediately, his choice of actors makes the play spring to life.
The Living Room’s limited space and seating might pose a threat for many shows, but for Fat Pig, “promenade style” met patrons at the door when they were asked to check their coats because they would physically move throughout the theater space to different scenes and setting throughout both acts.
Kenzie West deserves heaps of praise for a bravura, overweight character that confronts all the slings and arrows aimed at larger people. She typifies what every overweight person experiences. She puts a face and character to what some celebrities experience when they wear a “fat suit” and then go out in public to record reactions. Her words, smile, joking, and personality mask the insecurities, pain, and heartbreak buried within. She takes the audience along her journey in the play.
As her boyfriend, Tom, Bob Linebarger, provides some of the most uncomfortable and awkward first meeting dialogue one can imagine. No one can avoid his charming shtick as a bashful guy who meets an amazing person over lunch. As their relationship grows the audience sees more what reality holds and outside pressures create. Linebarger shines and brings so many laughs to the show. His character is the focus of all the other character’s character flaws. He handles each situation with his nervously funny character with a non-penetrateable security wall.
As Jeanne, Liz Golson, takes the audience on a crash course of vulnerability, obsessive/compulsive behavior, rejection, and bullying and wounded pride. Golson works her way thought all of the emotional quirks of the character in big departure from the normal musical comedy roles usually associated with her. She brings her “A” game to the comedy/drama. Expect to feel her pain, her discomfort while laughing at the character’s antics.
Tom’s foil, Carter, portrayed with flair by Matthew James McAndrews, allows the Id of everyone’s Freudian to speak and act with reckless abandon. No doubt about it, the character is an ass. He’s everyone’s worst nightmare. Tom represents the worst characteristics most shield from society. He says what most think but never verbalize. Tom represents all the unacceptable verbalizations and actions that society hopes never come out in public. McAndrews is superb as the unleashed character. He’s funny, he’s crude, and he’s the epitome of the person no one wants as a friend. Count on him to deliver a strong character.
Top to bottom, watch for a well-conceived performance. All characters are strong and the direction brings out the laughter and pain of all characters. Watch them work their way through Fat Pig with confidence.
Fat Pig runs weekends through Feb. 5-23 at The Living Room. For tickets, check the website: thelivingroom.com