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A CurtainUp Review
In a brief run at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, under the auspices of Women's Project Theater, Stuffed focuses on four women's struggle with food and body image. And though its ideal audience is women over the age of 18, it potentially can speak to anybody who lives on our planet today.
The scenario: Set in a generic urban apartment, we eavesdrop on a quartet of gals who are sitting around a coffee table, imbibing wine and cheese, as they talk about their love-hate relationship with food over the years. Lisa (Lampanelli) has struggled with weight loss since her freshman year in college. The adorably-trim Katey (Zainab Jah) wearies of being the constant target of other women's envy. The neurotically thin Britney (Jessica Luck) is a bulimic with a severe case of body dysmorphia. And Stacey (Ann Harada), who looks like a cherub plucked from a Ruben's painting, is perfectly at home with her plump figure.
Although Stuffed is always entertaining,, it is more of a talk-fest than anything else. It does beg a number of questions: How did these diverse women end up in this apartment together? Is this a casual gathering or some special occasion? Since Lampanelli fails to contextualize the piece sufficiently, it leaves you wondering why these women are exchanging their life experiences with each other.
Another problem with Stuffed is that its most intense dramatic experience happens off-stage. That applies to a number of horrific events that the four characters have endured. Case in point: There's Britney's story of her physical abuse by her drug-addicted boyfriend at a subway station. . . we also hear Katey 's recollection of emotional abuse by her jealous, and overweight, mother. These intense events that have significantly shaped—and scarred these women need more show instead of all tell.
That said, Lampanelli, brings her trademark humor to the piece making us understand why she has been dubbed the "female Don Rickles. She nods to glamorous celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Moss and uses them as examples of fantasy femmes who make everybody else feel fat and awkward. And while i felt the play at times got too jokey she does succeed to shake out the myth of the perfect female body and gives ordinary women permission to live in their own skins with more confidence and less self-hate.
The play gains true poignance, when Lampanelli brings in her own personal struggles and shares her the desperation that prompted her to have gastric-sleeve surgery. Interestingly, what bothered Lisa the most about the surgery wasn't the rigorous fasting or the painful recovery period but confronting the narrow-minded attitudes of people who felt that she had "cheated" by having this operation. Indeed, science and ethics are subtly addressed in Stuffed. And we learn that not everybody is ready to embrace the latest medical advances in weight loss.
The creative team mounts the play without any pyrotechnics. Jessica Ford's costumes subtly reflect each character's personality and confidence level. Stacey wears a blousy dress that flatters her full figure and has a touch of pizazz. Katey wears a chic mini-skirt and top that shows off her model shape. The anorexic Britney wears a too-large sweater and print dress that practically swallows up her diminutive frame. And Lisa wears the de rigueur outfit of dieters: stretch pants and a lycra jersey. Yael Lubetzky's lighting isn't overly theatrical but keeps everything on stage in clear view. Antje Ellerman's eclectic set is just right with its imposing refrigerator, staple culinary items, and comfortable furniture that softens the bare wood floors.
For those who are fans of Lampanelli, Stuffed will be a revelation. Who knew that the insult comic has a beating heart beneath her crusty humor? True, her debut play though far from flawless but it's not a bad start for this unflappable comedienne
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Stuffed by Lisa Lampanelli
Directed by Jackson Gay
Cast: Ann Harada (Stacey), Zainab Jah (Katey), Lisa Lampanelli (Lisa), Jessica Luck (Britney).
Sets: Antje Ellermann
Costumes: Jessica Ford
Sound: Elisheba Ittoop
Lighting: Yael Lubetzky
Stage Manager: Danny Maly
McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway (at 76th Street). Tickets start at $45. Phone (866) 811-4111 or online at WPTheater.org
From 10/23/16; opening 10/07/16; closing 11/13/16.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday @ 7pm, Friday @ 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm. through Saturday @ 8pm; Sunday matinee @ 2pm. Special Early matinee at NOON on Novermber 2.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 10/02/16
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