Dayton Theatre Guild
By Russell Florence, Jr.
In Neil LaBute’s incredibly thought-provoking 2004 comic drama “Fat Pig,” the second installment in his definitive “image trilogy” which includes “The Shape of Things” and the Tony Award-nominated “reasons to be pretty,” the easygoing Tom, a bachelor with commitment issues, has difficulty assessing his attraction to and future with plus-sized Helen, an amiable librarian who isn’t shy about what she eats or how she feels.
In a perfect world, this engaging couple, who meet casually during lunch and share common interests that fuel their compatibility, would be able to look past concerns of physicality or judgment from colleagues. However, happiness is fleeting in the LaBute universe. The controversial playwright/screenwriter/director doesn’t necessarily care about happily ever after, preferring instead to spotlight the cruel, vindictive ways men and women bruise and destroy relationships. This was powerfully realized in his direction of the underrated 2008 film “Lakeview Terrace,” a tale of interracial suburban hell starring Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. Although his biting yet casually conversational dialogue caters to a frank, locker room mentality that can be off-putting, his particularly engrossing depictions of young adults adrift in romance or craving peer validation sting with truth.
In the Dayton Theatre Guild’s compelling production of “Fat Pig,” deftly staged with palpable tension by Fran Pesch, leading players Steve Strawser and Wendi Williams form an appealing bond illustrating a natural progression of budding love attempting to endure in spite of superficial obstacles. The understated Strawser isn’t a thirtysomething which makes Tom less hip in LaBute’s contemporary context, but he believably fashions the character as a meek charmer with a flighty personality prone to cowardice and being frozen by his own paranoia. Williams’ wonderfully sharp and ultimately heartbreaking portrayal of Helen radiates with cool self-awareness. Thanks to her unpretentious performance, it is apparent that Helen is a strong woman secure in her body who will confidently face anything with humor and grace no matter what the future holds.
Additionally, Nicolas Bauer as Tom’s annoyingly chauvinistic friend Carter and Amy Askins as Tom’s jealous ex Jeannie are dynamically brutal. The handsome, intimidating Bauer epitomizes masculine tactlessness, and excellently delivers Carter’s gripping monologue detailing his adolescent disgust of being seen in public with his overweight mother. Askins fiercely infuses Jeannie’s prickly persona with scorned, conceited flair, which beautifully evaporates opposite Strawser and Williams in the devastatingly honest final scene solidifying LaBute as one of the finest voices of his generation.
Fat Pig continues through Sunday, February 27 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, Act One: 60 minutes; Act Two: 40 minutes.
Tickets & Performance Information:
Neil LaBute’s FAT PIG – through Sunday, February 27 – Performance Times Vary (click for details)
Tickets Prices: $11 student / $16 senior / $18 adult
Location: Dayton Theatre Guild at The Caryl D. Philip’s TheatreScape – 430 Wayne Ave. Dayton, Ohio 45410 (MAP)
Contains adult situations and language.
Tickets are on sale now through DTG’s Online Box Office, or via phone at (937) 278-5993 (due to a volunteer staff, phones are not monitored continually).
For more information about Dayton Theatre Guild’s entire 2010-2011 season, visit www.DaytonTheatreGuild.org
-RFWe encourage local theatre companies to submit calendar items HERE, and official press releases to onStageDayton@gmail.com.