AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Neil LaBute
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Barbara Damashek
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Playwright Neil LaBute makes some salient points about social norms and body weight in "Fat Pig," being given a sharp production by Aurora Theatre Company. The story starts hopefully enough. A nice looking man, Tom (Jud Williford), meets a funny, sharp woman, Helen (Liliane Klein), in a crowded lunch place when she offers to share her table with him. They make polite, casual conversation, as strangers do, but there's a spark of attraction, too. This despite the fact that Tom, who is of normal weight, is picking at a salad, while Helen, who is definitely plus size, is scarfing down a piece of pizza.

They begin seeing each other, but Tom is reluctant to tell his workmates, Carter (Peter Ruocco) and Jeannie (Alexandra Creighton), anything about her. Finally the nosy, devious Carter discovers who the mystery woman is, and he's appalled, making crude jokes about her weight. Jeannie, who has dated Tom herself, is bitchily incensed. The upshot is that even though Tom and Helen have fallen in love, Tom can't resist the peer prejudice against her weight even though she seems to be OK with it. His weakness is all the more hurtful where Helen is concerned because his peers' behavior is so juvenile while she has far more maturity and depth. She's also the most likable and honest character. There's sadness for her because she saw the warning signals of Tom's ambivalence and chose to ignore them because she liked him so much and -- perhaps -- because this was probably one of her first or only serious relationships.

Director Barbara Damashek maintains just the right pace in this 100-minute show, which has no intermission. She's aided by Mikiko Uesugi's set, Jim Cave's lighting, Maggie Whitaker's costumes and Chris Houston's composition and sound. "Fat Pig" is a serious look at how society in general regards people who are physically different. It's especially ironic given the epidemic of obesity in this country.

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