I had never been in Artattack’s space before, so I will say that, for a teensy, weird, not-originally-theatre space, they make good use of what they have.
I had also never seen “Fat Pig” before, so I don’t have anything to really compare this show to. I wish that I was more familiar with the play, now, as I can see other productions handling certain aspects, like the break up in the final scene, or the characters of Jeannie and Carter, very differently. On the other hand, I feel, strongly, that this production did the script full justice — if Labute was trying to communicate anything, this production got it. Views of fat people in our culture are screwed up, we hurt each other more often than not, and social pressure is a slow death by poison. The actors conveyed the heart of the script so tenderly in their characterizations that I think Labute would be unbelievably proud. Helen, played by my friend Rachel Permann, was heroic and beautiful (as is Rachel herself — no better choice in Seattle for that role), with a magnificent personality and sense of humor. She is radiant, especially compared to the toxic dump of an office environment that Tom works in. The absolute beauty if this production is that no character was ever one dimensional — everyone, whether hateful or beautiful, had their reasons. Jeannie was a crazy psycho-bitch, but Tom absolutely strung her along, and the actress (who I met and who is lovely, and whose name I completely forget now, which I feel bad about) spends most of her conversations with Tom with a completely stricken look on her face — not because she can’t believe that Tom is dating Helen, but that Tom has found someone else and hasn’t bothered to be honest with her. So Tom is definitely a modern anti-hero, a cowardly, snivelling yes-man who finds refuge in one interesting, open person who is so outside of the people he normally has to deal with that that, probably more than anything, is what makes him feel safe. But he screws it up, because Carter, his shallow office frenemy (played by the director, who spent the whole time on stage either chewing gum or eating twizzlers, both of which made Carter an even more disgusting person) and Jeannie, his shallow ex-girlfriend, pressure him into thinking he should be humiliated by Helen. The show becomes less about weight issues and more about how cowardly most of us are, when it comes to stepping outside our known world. It just revolves around something particularly sensitive in modern Western society.
I felt for every character in this play. I knew exactly why Carter was the way he was, and I felt his visceral disgust of obese people somewhere inside myself (I am not exactly svelt, and I have friends of all sizes, but this play and this particular character are geared to hit just that one spot in us, which I think we all have and which we all hate). I feel, most days, like I am Helen — desperate to please those I love and willing to, when relationships fall apart, possibly even mutilate myself for them. I am Tom, as well, cowardly and dishonest because it’s easier than telling the blunt, blatant truth, which stings. And I have been bewildered, paranoid Jeannie, accusatory, seeking justice through the only method I can — verbal scorn.
I am so heartbroken by the beauty of this play. It digs in each of my neuroses. And that’s a good thing.
Chairs were lined on each side of the stage (I think there were about 30 seats total), so the audience had not only a view of the actors — uncomfortably close, I might add — but views of each other. I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to the other audience members, because I was so engrossed in the show. The stage itself was painted white with black lines in an artistic, 90’s style, with a black table, two white swivel chairs, and a white couch at the other end. Helen comes out dressed in bright red, while Tom, Jeannie, and Carter all appear in black and white clothes, at first. As you learn more about the characters, or as they open up more, they have more color in their wardrobe, until finally they are all at the beach in brightly-colored bathing suits. The symbolism there was a little heavy-handed and unnecessary, since the show was so focused on the characters’ connections with each other, but I understand why they went there. And it didn’t detract from the show once the play started.
Definitely a beautiful play. One of the best shows I’ve seen this year. I’m very excited about checking out more of Artattack’s work.