Neil LaBute writes brutal plays. They tackle topics that most playwrights shun and he doesn’t pull a single punch. What is more, he does so while writing deliciously deliverable dialogue that actors can really sink their teeth into.
"Fat Pig" is a case in point and it is getting a solid, thoroughly satisfying performance from Dominion Stage in Guston Arts Center’s Theatre One right now. The one-act play looks at the burgeoning romance between a slender young man and woman whose girth is the opposite of his body image.
He’s a classic example of what is meant by the term "yuppie," a young upwardly mobile professional who pals around with a colleague who dishes dirt about anyone not conforming to the shallow standards of his set. His life is complicated by the excessive attention of a slender but curvaceous clerk in the finance office who wants their relationship to be more than the occasional sexual fling he prefers.
Into his life comes a woman who is, well, big, but she’s bright, interesting, funny and fun to be with. They meet in the dining hall when all the tables are full and the only seat he can find at which to munch on his salad and sip his bottle of water is at the table where she’s finishing off her third slice of pizza and moving on to her two containers of pudding.
Polite conversation soon turns to genuine exchange of thoughts, opinions and preferences. She’s interesting. He’s interested. They exchange numbers and, soon, he’s taking her to dinner. "I don’t just eat" she says and they end up in her apartment, in her bed. Love begins to bloom.
Ah, but what would his friends think if they saw him with her? He’s concerned. Why do they never go anywhere where they might meet any of his friends? She’s concerned.
LaBute writes superb dialogue for her. As delivered by actress Erin Decaprio, those lines are much more than flippant comedy shtick. They are the basis for a love affair. Decaprio makes it easy for the audience to see and share his evolving sense of fondness for her.
While she gets the funnier, more intelligent lines, those for him are effective in communicating his growing affection as well as his accompanying sense of concern over her what pairing up with her would do to his social and professional image. Actor Christopher C. Holbert makes clear the growth in both feelings.
Chuck Dluhy does a great job with the often despicable friend from down the hall, who, among other offenses, sends a photo of the "Fat Pig" via email to everyone in the office. He’s worth despising until, in a scene LaBute devilishly devises to turn the impression around, he reveals the ability to feel genuine emotions.
Some other authors would tackle a topic like this but tip it toward an examination of the woman and the reason for her girth. Not LaBute. He turns it on its head when it is the weaknesses in the character of the yuppie that drive the climax. It gives the evening that kicker of an ending that makes play going such a kick.
<i>Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a website covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.</i>