Fat Pig

Neil LaBute's play about body-size and social douchebaggery gets a sharp production from Theatre en Bloc

Fleshing out the characters (l-r): Jenny Lavery, Ryan Hamilton, Zena Marie Vaughn, Charles P. Stites
Fleshing out the characters (l-r): Jenny Lavery, Ryan Hamilton, Zena Marie Vaughn, Charles P. Stites
Courtesy of Jenny Hanna-Chambers

Fat Pig

The Off Center, 2211-A Hidalgo, 512/522-4083 Through Oct. 20
www.theatreenbloc.org
Running time: 2 hr.

It turns out, guys judge girls on their looks.

I know, right?

A brief, informal survey of dudes says that guys talk with one another about girls' looks, but not about their personalities. Decent men and jerks alike discuss a woman's appearance. Basically by virtue of being on the planet, a woman's appearance is up for evaluation. Where does she rank on a scale of one to 10? Hot or not? And so on.

Women do the same thing, to one another and to men. We generally use more words, but we still do it. Very few people are actually blind. The rest of us use looks to judge.

In that context, consider the plot of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, onstage now from Theatre en Bloc. Athletic and health-conscious Tom (Ryan Hamilton) meets the obese Helen (Zena Marie Vaughn), and they hit it off. He is disarmed by her candor and her laugh. She likes that neither her size nor her many defense mechanisms scare him off. They start to date.

Tom's co-workers, led by the unrepentant and therefore fascinating asshole Carter (Charles P. Stites), get hold of a picture of Helen, despite Tom's best efforts. They are not gentle.

As Tom and Helen's relationship progresses, it's hard for Helen or anybody else to discern whether Tom is protecting her or ashamed of her. And here is LaBute's great skill as a playwright at work: Maybe it's both. Maybe Tom is wrong but means well. Is he justified in keeping her hidden from colleagues who wouldn't hesitate to show their cruelty? Or is he weak-willed for even bothering with such shallow people, in a world in which even decent guys judge what their buddies' girlfriends look like?

And, let's not forget that women are willing players. Jeannie (Jenny Lavery) is Tom's former office romance. The character unfortunately encapsulates the stereotype of the skinny bitch, but the message is clear: It's not just men who judge. People judge. It's what we do. So what happens to the person of substance – in this case Helen – in the face of standards of appearance that convict her before she's said a word?

Fat Pig is in a lot of ways a thought experiment, one that is enjoyable because LaBute gives so much dimension to the characters. What might be an overdone subject – female body image – is made fascinating via a story with great characters. Theatre en Bloc's cast do good work with their roles, especially Hamilton, who finds many sides to a character who resists easy conviction. If the events of the story are unhappy, they at least are driven by a sense of inevitability that makes the play satisfying.

A nod also to the set design from Patrick and Holly Crowley. Within the budget of a smaller company, they have constructed an interesting and detailed presentation of the play's several locations.

Fat Pig is probably not the kind of play you should take someone to for a first date. It is, however, a well-presented production of a complex and textured script. It is thought-provoking and worth the time to see.

READ MORE
More Fat Pig
Fat Pig
Fat Pig
Heavy mettle

Barry Pineo, June 30, 2006

More Austin theatre
Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

Exibitionism: Road to Nowhere
Detroit
Capital T Theatre's Detroit is a destination worth visiting, but you won't want to live there

Robert Faires, Sept. 5, 2014

More Arts Reviews
Zach Theatre's <i>Buyer and Cellar</i>
Zach Theatre's Buyer and Cellar
This solo show by Jonathan Tolins is as funny and surreal as a Twilight Zone episode written by Harvey Fierstein

Robert Faires, July 1, 2016

Loverboy at ColdTowne Theater
Loverboy at ColdTowne Theater
This troupe's improvised scenes based on personal sex stories prove ColdTowne is still a fun place to catch local comedy's up-and-comers

Ashley Moreno, July 1, 2016

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Capital T Theatre's <i>Trevor</i>
Trevor
An aging chimp in show business provides the focus for this engrossing vehicle for a cast of great performers

May 27, 2016

Out of Ink 2016: Carry On
Out of Ink 2016: Carry On
As usual, ScriptWorks' annual showcase of 10-minute plays is a bit rough but shows the promise of creative minds

May 6, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin theatre, Fat Pig, Neil LaBute, Derek Kolluri, Zena Marie Vaughn, Jenny Lavery, Ryan Hamilton, Charles P. Stites

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)