Reviewed by Will Stackman
Even before the "The Shape of Things", Neil LaBute's plays had a consistent negative worldview. But by putting the primary insult in his latest dyspeptic effort "Fat Pig," in the title, the author opens the door for the audience to have sympathy with at least one of his characters. The actress playing ample Helen, Lilane Klein, builds on that possibility right up to the play's potentially maudlin finish. She gets beyond occasionally superficial writing to become interesting. As indecisive Tom, James Ryen, a tall leading man with an interesting face last seen as the prince in ASP's "Winter's Tale", has the opposite problem. His character clearly doesn't live up to his looks. He's less interesting as the play goes on. In fact, if these parts were played by different actors, say a more imposing Helen and a shorter Tom, the heartache might be the same, but the impact of this production would be diminished.
Once again, LaBute focuses on appearances in his story telling, while maintaining has basic theme that essentially most people are no damn good. Even the best have unconquerable weaknesses, the author included. He doesn't seem to be able to get beyond the Calvinist worldview. The two other people in this play, Jeanine, Tom's former girlfriend who works in Accounting, and Carter, his buddy the office slacker, are much more one-dimensional examples. Award-winning actress Laura Latreille makes much more of Jeanine, as much through her physical presentation as her staccato delivery, than Michael Daniel Anderson, who's possibly miscast, does of Carter. This jerk is underwritten to the point of being a sitcom escapee. Neither of Tom's office mates has much back story. Carter's complaint about having a fat mother seems imposed and Jeanine's outburst about continually chosing the wrong men belongs in "Sex and the City." Our hero's background is also too much inferred, though Ryen makes him likably plausible, the current equivalent of the man in grey flannel, Only Helen has enough of a past to suggest a possible future after the inevitable breakup. The play's end indeed seems a bit abrupt, but the performances and a lot of sharp writing make this 100 some minute romance worth watching.
The handsome set by IRNE winner Janie E. Howland is backed by a wall of glass bricks with Tom's sterile modern office -- not a cubicle -- up left. There's almost nothing personal about his workaday environment. Alternate scenes at various locations, mostly eateries, are placed in a formal manner by the cast using carefully chosen furniture pieces. Multiple IRNE winner Gail Astrid Buckely's costumes clearly define each character. from Helen the librarian's voluminous wear to Jeanine's sleek office chic and final bikini. Jeff Adelberg's area lighting and Nathan Leigh's original music and sound complete the effect. It's a play; it's also almost a slice of life, though each character seems confined more by the author's intentions than the demands of the action. As a play, Speakeasy's "Fat Pig" is superbly cast in the three most important roles, well-acted, but ultimately not dramatically satisfying. Klein's performance particularly leaves the audience wanting more. LaBute's strategy continues to be to give us less.