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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Fat Pig

People are not comfortable with difference You know? Fags, retards, cripples. Fat people, old folks even. . .the thing they represent that's so scary is what we could be, how vulnerable we all are.— Carter

Fat Pig

Kirsten Vangsness and Scott Wolf in Fat Pig at The Geffen Playhouse.
(Photo: Michael Lamont)
We're in Neil Labute country with boys behaving badly but in Fat Pig at The Geffen Playhouse, the boys are becoming more self-aware. Tom (Scott Wolf) falls in love with Helen (Kirsten Vangsness), a fat librarian he meets in a crowded cafeteria. He takes pains to hide the affair from his co-workers, Carter (Chris Pine), a smartass who loves meddling in other people's business, and Jeannie (Andrea Anders), a svelte accountant he's been dating.

Tom is good-looking, sort of nebbishy and actually is as needy and shallow as he describes himself. He doesn't really need to hear Carter tell him his relationship with Helen will be tough and hamper his career. The fact that he asks Carter's opinion at all is revelation enough. And Carter's ever ready with opinions, such as his capsule analysis of Tom, himself, and all the guys he knows: "You get bored or cornered or feel a touch nervous and you drop 'em like they were old produce." Labute's anti-heroes aren't nice guys but they still finish last.

"All this love inside and it's not nearly enough to get around the shit that people heave at you," Tom moans. Not for a weakling like Tom who's not very bright, anyway. He's the type for whom you always feel a vague contempt from the moment he bumbles into Helen's table at the cafeteria where he doesn't get any of her jokes. Only Helen's loneliness and need and Tom's clumsy good looks would have made her think she was in love with him. If Tom had been a tad stronger, smarter and really had something to fight against, the ending would have felt less disappointing. But he lies about his feelings from the beginning, so there's nowhere to go. His finest moment comes when a desperate Helen offers to have weight loss surgery and Tom has the grace to refuse. He seems to finally realize Helen's weight is not the issue. He's the issue.

Labute's funny incisive dialogue is terrific and he's created some interesting characters. Kirsten Vangsness has the Rubenesque voluptuousness and full-bodied laugh that Tom loves in Helen, plus a warmth and intelligence that should have gotten around anybody's shit. Chris Pine plays the articulate Carter with Mephistophelean glee, actually giving such a devilish pounce when he swipes Tom's picture of Helen to post on the office e-mail that you can practically see his tail swishing. Andrea Anders' long legs make a beautiful line in the stiletto heels she always wears to the office and the rage she brings to Tom's ineffectual dithering is a refreshing tsunami. Scott Wolf plays Tom as written— buff, average and wimpy, generating no respect or empathy until his final moment.

Louisa Thompson's sleek bare set design mirrors the sterile environment in which her characters live in cubicles, molded by Lap-Chi Chu's lighting design. Tina Haatainen Jones costumes differentiate between Helen's librarian fat girl clothes, trying to distract by color what they can't conceal by shape, and the office fashionistas. Jo Bonney who directed the New York production is a master of the double take, particularly in Jeannie's case, and catches the childlike playful quality in the basket ball game and one-upsmanship of the boys. No way could you call them men.

"These baby boys run around in men's clothes but all they really want to do is breast feed for the rest of their days" sneers Jeannie. This may not be a universal truth but in the world Labute created in Fat Pig, she nailed it..

Editor's Note: The Geffen is fortunate to have Jo Bonney at the helm and Louisa Thompsan as the designer, as during the play's New York premiere. To read that review go here.

Playwright: Neil Labute
Director: Jo Bonney
Cast: Tom (Scott Wolf), Helen (Kristen Vangsness), Carter (Chris Pine), Jeannie (Andrea Anders)
Set Design: Louisa Thompson
Costume Design: Tina Haatainen Jones
Lighting Design: Lap-Chi Chu
Sound Design: Colbert S. Davis IV
Running Time: One hour 50 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: May 11-June 17, 2007
Where: The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, Reservations: (310) 208-5454.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on May 20
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