The Banyan examines the importance of appearance with Fat Pig.
By Kay Kipling
Even if you didn’t know anything about playwright/screenwriter Neil LaBute’s other work (The Shape of Things, In the Company of Men, reasons to be pretty) you’d probably still be intrigued by a piece with the title Fat Pig. That sort of brutal, in-your-face language is a LaBute trademark, and Fat Pig, now onstage in a Banyan Theater Company production at the Cook Theatre, is both familiar LaBute territory—and a little bit different.
Familiar because it revolves around unhappy young adults, living in an urban setting, who are dealing with relationships or the lack of them and who are not by any means very likable and who do some not very nice things. Different, perhaps, because in this case we do feel sympathy for at least some of the characters and wish things could turn out differently.
Sam Osheroff and Margot Moreland in the Banyan's Fat Pig.
Character No. 1: Tom (Sam Osheroff), an attractive young corporate type who stumbles across Helen (Margot Moreland) during lunch in a crowded restaurant. Tom is not looking for someone to get involved with, and if he were, he wouldn’t be likely to choose Helen, for although she’s bright, attractive and funny, she’s also several sizes too big—which in our society places her in hands-off land. Despite himself, though, he’s drawn to her during the course of a typically clever/awkward La Bute conversation, and ends up making plans to see her again—a plan he may regret once his officemates find out about it.
Those work colleagues are Carter (Dane Dandridge Clark), only a slight exaggeration of the annoying juvenile smartass many of us know, and Jeannie (Bethany Weise), a hard-edged yet desperate type whom Tom was dating until recently. When word gets out that Tom is now seeing a “fatty,” Carter and Jeannie begin to make life unbearable for him, even as Tom finds himself happily in love—that is, when he and Helen are alone together, in their own world apart.
It’s not hard to find moments of recognition here, and to wonder just how we’d respond in Tom’s position. We all know what a strong, mature person should do in the situation—but how many of us are really strong and mature enough to take on the daily battle of challenging society’s norms? As Carter (jerk though he is) says late in the play, “We’re all just one step away from being what frightens us. What we despise. So…we despise it when we see it in anybody else.”
Director Greg Leaming has a fine cast for Fat Pig, and he moves them sharply through their paces. LaBute’s dialogue is funny and scathing (although also touching, in the end), and while all the actors hit the right notes, it’s Osheroff and Moreland who must work convincingly together for the play itself to work. Luckily, they do.
Fat Pig continues through Aug. 23; for tickets call 552-1032 or go to banyantheatercompany.com.