Fat Pig at Renaissance Theater Works promised me it'd be offensive, controversial, shocking and uncompromising. I realize that's just marketing, but still, if someone like me was going to be swept away by any show at the BTC this season, it would either be this, or Chamber's Crime and Punnishment. The Dostoyevsky play turned out to be a book report, immensely upstaged by a production of Notes From Underground that I saw in a tiny room by candlelight a few weeks later (i'll never stop talking about that show) so i was banking on Fat Pig.
But I was let down. Fat Pig was dull and pointless. I mainly blame the writer, Neil LaBute, though. His script can be summed up as: In our society, people who have weight problems also have social and romantic problems, especially if they get involved with shallow assholes. You don't need to write a play about this, and if you do, you had better do something with it that goes beyond the basic conclusions one could draw if they thought about, or saw a "fat pig" on the street for two minutes.
The play starts with a chance meeting between Helen, an oversized but interesting and attractive woman, and a Tom, completely dull but well-built man. The two get involved, and a couple of harpies at his useless office job can't stand to think about it, or stop talking about it. There's only two ways this can go, and ten minutes in, anyone but the most naive will know this story won't come to the happy one. The fact that Tom doesn't throw these obnoxious co-workers out the window in their first scene together, or that he's friends with them in the first place cements that he will eventually succumb to their pressure, and leave Helen.
On stage, I saw capable actors crippled by the limitations of this script. Even Wayne T Carr, who starred in the best locally produced theatre I've seen (as Booth in Topdog/Underdog, also brought to us by Renaissance) failed to overcome the limitations of his role, and when I heard a room full of rich white women chuckle at some bit of 'funny black man' business he indulged in halfway through the second act, I was immediately reminded of Amiri Baraka's Dutchman, and couldn't help but lose a little respect for the guy. On the whole, the actors (or maybe the director?) were unable to develop chemistry, or maintain interesting character they went through the completely predictable uninspired roles they played.
Maybe my political bias is at fault, but I failed to have a even moment of sympathy or concern for the bourgeois white collar drama queens and pricks that were supposed to balance against Helen to make Tom's tribulations into a dramatic conflict. Without any identification with these characters, I couldn't see Tom as anything but equally insipid. The only person to give a shit about at all is Helen, and even she is reduced to a symbol. Tanya Saracho played the part well initially, but she was ground down as the play went on. The fact that for the length of the play we never deviate a moment off of the topic of the social dimensions of her body, makes any interest surrounding her character evaporate quickly. There are deeper, more interesting things that can (and have elsewhere) been explored on the subject of weight and body image. Opportunities to indict Tom for a sort of sexual tourism, or to explore a prurient vicarious - even oedipal - motive for his co-worker's probing curiousity were brushed past in favor of this sentimental romance, and the result is far from offensive.