Fat Pig a hit at OnStage in Chula Vista

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Kym Pappas’s direction of Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig is flawless. The same cannot be said about the script. What is good about this script is totally believable language. What is bad about the script is that some of the characters are both stereotypical and over-drawn. And, even at just over an hour and a half, the script is too long, or rather LaBute did not explore the finer nuances of the subject or his characters.

What makes the evening worthwhile is an excellent cast. Carla Nell takes her character, Helen, and puts her through a rollercoaster of emotions. Her ability to shift her look or a subtle movement often says much more than the playwright’s words. She is a master of Helen.

Brendan Cavalier, as her boyfriend Tom, is absolutely infuriating to watch. He plays a spineless young man unable to stand up for his feelings. Tom’s inability to express his true feelings to his co-workers is frustrating. Sadly, he is believable, and Cavalier does an excellent job of proving it to the audience.

Ryan Ross, on the other hand, is forced to portray Carter and he does a great job of it. However, Carter is a one-dimensional character, so totally without any redeeming values that one has the desire to climb up on the stage and slap his smug face. Alas, Carter is simply unbelievable. LaBute could have given him a few decent traits. We would still have disliked him. We would have also believed him. Ross has nailed Carter’s flawed character completely.

Rounding out the cast is Jenna Dawsey playing Tom’s former love interest and co-worker, Jeannie. Didn’t anybody warn Tom that office romances can be messy? Jeannie is having difficulty getting over Tom. She is insecure and fearing that, in her late 20s, matrimony is passing her by. Dawsey is forced to play a limited dimensional character. But she does it with elan.

While I fault the script for its repetition and lack of depth, the director and her cast got every characterization right. What LaBute lacks in story depth, he almost makes up in dialog. The cast not only expressed his words with passion, they added their body language equally expressively.

Set designers at OnStage Playhouse are challenged with a wide stage of limited depth. It is interesting to see the configurations that the come up with. In Fat Pig, designers Pappas and Chris Renda created two permanent sets, a bedroom and office, and one center section working for single-scene sets. This worked quite well. Chad Oakley’s lighting design isolated the action quite well. Sound designers Eusevio Cordoba and Pappas added even more definition to location as well as drama at just the right points. Teri Brown reinforced the characters with her costume selection.

I recommend Fat Pig for the outstanding performances you’ll see. Each of the cast gave much more than the script provided. This is a tough story of love, peer pressure, and flawed characters. While the characters were flawed, the actors were not.

Fat Pig runs Thursday thru Sunday to October 4, 2008 at OnStage Playhouse at 291 Third Avenue in Chula Vista. For information and reservations call 619 422-RSVP (7787) or go to their website at www.onstageplayhouse.org.

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.