Originally produced Off-Broadway in 2004 with Keri Russell and Jeremy Piven, Fat Pig follows Tom, a 20-something young professional who meets Helen during a working lunch. Helen charms him with her intelligence, her confidence, and her self-deprecating humor. Tom asks her out, even though she doesn’t look like the women he usually dates. Helen is overweight, but happy with who she is. She’s willing to give Tom a chance, though she worries that their relationship will end with her heart being broken. Tom struggles to overcome his own embarrassment as well as his protectiveness of Helen when he introduces her to his shallow co-worker, Carter, and Tom’s ex-girlfriend, Jeannie.
Though slightly dated, (think Blockbuster-era) the script of this show is solid, funny, and heartfelt while dealing with the sensitive subject matter of a woman’s acceptance of her own body amidst the societal prejudice and exclusion of women who don’t fit the “cover girl” body type.
Fat Pig is directed by SVSU Theatre alum Jonah Connor. Connor has assembled a tight ensemble cast who bring a lot of experience to the stage. Scenes clip along at a good pace, and transitions are smooth and quick. While cast members played well off each other, blocking seemed unmotivated and unnatural at times, which led to clunky chemistry in some important moments.
Dominic Pnacek was well-cast as the sweet everyman, Tom. His delivery was natural and his battle with his own insecurities wasn’t overplayed. His portrayal was empathetic, and he resisted the inclination to turn too cold and unlikable at the end. As an audience member, I could relate to him and felt myself introspectively struggling right along with him, which of course, is exactly the point.
As Helen, Rachel Steigely skillfully showed Helen’s armor fall as she opened herself up to love through the second act, and the result was a heartbreaking vulnerability during the play’s final scene. The moment would have been even more emotionally rewarding if Steigely more fully embodied the character’s confidence and brashness earlier in the show.
Denis Koepke, as Carter, was genuinely likeable as the “douche-bag from the office” that we all know and like despite his many character flaws. He was at his best when goofing around with Tom, and his greatest moment was a bit of improv around a cubicle game of trash can basketball. When the script called on Carter to soften and offer advice to Tom, Koepke sometimes became presentational, but overall, offered many great moments of levity and knows how to deliver a laugh line.
Ally Nacarato played the perfect bitch; her lines were biting and she pulled no punches (literally.) It would be easy to make her character, Jeannie, two-dimensional, and lacking in true humanity. The times when she let her defenses fall and we felt her desperation were Narcarato’s strongest turns. In the final scene she showed more levels to her character, leaving us wishing we would have seen more of that nuance in earlier scenes.
Technically speaking, the show’s set was perfectly understated for the space, and scene changes were fast and didn’t break the pace of the show. Projections by Jason Tisdale were used to help create the feeling of overhead office lights, a Chinese restaurant, and other locations. They were clever and not intrusive to the action on stage.
The show’s “soundtrack” was fun, fit the feel of the show, and helped to set the mood of each scene. The soundscape used in the first scene, however, was more intrusive than mood-setting and left this reviewer wondering why it was used at all. Lighting design by Quinn Nichols was well-executed and expertly run from the board.
There is no costumer listed in the program, and the costume design may have benefitted from another set of eyes. Helen’s costumes were perfect, and Tom’s were usually right on the mark. Jeannie and Carter’s costumes, however, seemed out of place for an office setting. Carter’s costumes leaned more slovenly than cocky, and Jeannie’s office apparel seemed too young for a 28-year-old accountant. She appeared as though she was going out for a night with girlfriends instead of crunching numbers in a cubicle.
If you’re looking for a funny piece of theatre that includes an important message, consider Passion Theatre’s production of Fat Pig. Fat Pig will continue performances at Bullock Creek Auditorium Saturday, April 27 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at passiontheatre.ticketleap.com but act fast, only fifty tickets are available each night!