by Mike Hoban
“Fat Pig” Written by Neil LaBute. Directed by Juliet Bowler. Presented by The Flat Earth Theatre at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, through June 24.
Flat Earth Theatre follows up their luminous (and Elliot Norton Award–winning) Silent Sky with another first-rate production, Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, playing through next weekend (June 24). This dark dramedy details the unlikely romance between plus-sized librarian Helen, and Tom, a handsome (and thin) up-and-coming corporate guy. The two meet by chance in a crowded restaurant and the mutual attraction is evident early on, as Helen’s disarming and sexually-tinged wit draws Tom in, and he quickly finds himself smitten.
Unfortunately for Tom and Helen, just because the world in which we live theoretically celebrates diversity in couples, real life acceptance of non-traditional pairings may be another story, particularly in Tom’s status-conscious job. When Tom’s corporate lackey pal Carter (an appropriately slimy Dustin Teuber), gets wind of the romance, the relationship is exposed to the harsh light of public opinion (and ridicule) and it becomes a different kind of love story. Making matters worse is Tom’s on-again off-again relationship with the conventionally beautiful office mate Jeannie (Kristen Heider), who is stunned and hurt to be dumped for someone she considers to be inferior.
This disquieting but frequently hilarious examination of how we look at “fat” people in our society never pulls its punches, and despite using a corporate setting as a backdrop, doesn’t resort to the all-too-convenient (but mostly well-deserved) demonization of corporate culture. Tuber’s Carter is as smarmily punchable as either of the Trump kids (Eric and young Donald), and as the office babe, Heider follows up her brilliant performance as the android Rex from last year’s campy space opera, Citizens of the Empire, with another standout performance as Jeannie, capped by a heartfelt monologue about her inability to find a genuine relationship.
But it is the performances of its star-crossed lovers, Tom (Jordan Lindley) and Helen (Lindsay Eagle) that really drives this piece. The scenes involving the pair feel genuine, and you can feel the real bonding between them from the early flirtations to the later love scenes. Lindley effectively portrays the struggle of being torn between his shallow but secure life grounded in traditional success metrics, and a much more fulfilling one with someone who doesn’t fit the mold. Eagle has stepped away from her directing chores of the last few years to take on the role, and is perfectly cast as Helen. She convincingly plays her as someone who is perfectly comfortable with her body until her insecurity begins to bleed through as the pressure from outside influences on Tom to stay within the confines of conformity mount. Anyone who has been plagued by that deep-rooted less-than feeling will surely identify with this painful characterization.
Although “Fat Pig” is billed as a dark comedy (and it is very funny, particularly in its send up of corporate fratboy culture), it’s also deeply thought provoking. See it. For more info, go to: https://www.flatearththeatre.com/