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Theater Review (LA): ‘Fat Pig’ by Neil LaBute

When you see a Neil LaBute play, you can expect certain things: misogyny, misanthropy, and characters who are douchebags. Fat Pig delivers on all three as it spins the tale of an unlikely relationship threatened by the pressures of society. Tom (Jonathan Bray) is a handsome salesman whose star is on the rise at his company. He's casually dating an attractive accountant, Jeannie (Kirsten Kollender), who also works there. Carter (Nick Stabile), is another co-worker, the aforementioned douchebag who enjoys taunting Tom to see how far he can push him. When Tom goes into a restaurant to grab a bite…

Review Overview

75

Reviewer's Rating

Summary : LaBute's examination of relationships and body image receives a solid revival at the Hudson Mainstage Theater in Hollywood.

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When you see a Neil LaBute play, you can expect certain things: misogyny, misanthropy, and characters who are douchebags. Fat Pig delivers on all three as it spins the tale of an unlikely relationship threatened by the pressures of society.

Tom (Jonathan Bray) is a handsome salesman whose star is on the rise at his company. He’s casually dating an attractive accountant, Jeannie (Kirsten Kollender), who also works there. Carter (Nick Stabile), is another co-worker, the aforementioned douchebag who enjoys taunting Tom to see how far he can push him.

Fat-Pig_5When Tom goes into a restaurant to grab a bite while awaiting an appointment, he meets Helen (Deidra Edwards), a heavy-set librarian who is unashamedly devouring pizza and pudding. Since the place is so crowded, she invites him to join her at her table. They make small talk, and he finds himself drawn to her refreshing honesty and sense of humor. Much to her disbelief, he asks her out and they begin to date.

At the office, Tom tells Carter — after much hounding — that he’s met someone, but refuses to say who she is or what she looks like. And when Carter runs into them at dinner, Tom lets him think that Helen is an out-of-town client. She gets the drift and is not happy, but she says nothing.

But as the weeks progress and they consistently spend all their time alone at home or in out-of-the-way places, she realizes that Tom can’t get over his shame of being seen with her. She insists that he must introduce her to his friends if their relationship can survive. He starts by admitting to Carter that his new girlfriend is plus-sized, showing him a photo that Carter cruelly emails around the office. Jeannie is apoplectic, having been spurned for a “fat girl.”

Carter continually harangues Tom about his future. Any bad moves, including dating someone like Helen, could jeopardize his career. Feeling the pressure from both sides, Tom agrees to take Helen to the company picnic on the beach. However, he chooses a secluded area far away from the party proper, and a final confrontation ensues.

The two leads — Bray and Edwards — are excellent, demonstrating a real commitment to their roles. Bray manages to inject some humanity into a character that is essentially shallow. You can see that he’s spent his life worrying about what other people think of him. Edwards delivers a sympathetic Helen that we don’t feel the need to sympathize with — she’s a survivor. Stabile provides nasty fun as the obnoxious Carter, bringing to life every awful Yuppie cliché and making it hilarious. Kollender, alas, is at sea. Granted, her Jeannie is perpetually pissed off, but Kollender communicates her anger by constantly holding up her hand, palm out, as if she’s at a revival meeting. She also slaps her thighs so frequently that it become risible.

Alexis Jacknow’s direction is fine (although she should’ve worked more with Kollender) as is the scenic design by Hazel Kuang, which reproduces the look of the set I saw at the play’s L.A. premiere in 2007 that featured Chris Pine as Carter.

Fat Pig plays Thursday through Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. through June 1 at the Hudson Mainstage Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Reservations can be made online or by calling (323) 960-7788.

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About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.