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Fat
by Shannon Geier
Directed by Andrea Standby
because why not? theatre company
March 4, 2017

Alicen Moser, Talessha Caturah
Photo by Adam Shaw
because why not? theatre company

There’s a new theatre company putting on an original show at The Chapel. The company is called because why not? theatre company and the show is called Fat, written by the company’s Artistic Director, Shannon Geier. This play covers a subject that many in the audience, including myself, will have personal experience with–the subject of weight issues and what it means to live a life as an overweight person, as well as the general subjects of weight, body image, and society’s relationship with food. It’s a challenging subject because there are so many different opinions, but for the most part, Fat deals with its subject well, using a combination of light humor, sharp sarcasm, and poignant drama, with a strong cast and energetic direction.

The show talks about weight issues from a personal standpoint as well as a general one. Amid some funny, satirical presentations of commercials, news broadcasts, and testimonials depicting society’s view of obesity and overweight people, Fat tells the story of Amy (Taleesha Caturah), an intelligent professional woman who has her own struggles with weight, food and dieting and this personal struggle affects her family and friends, especially her husband Joel (Jeff Kargus), and daughter Tara (Alicen Moser).  Amy has a group of friends that she regularly joins for “Girls’ Nights”, in which they all share their own thoughts and struggles with weight issues of their own. There are a variety of characters and approaches, from the confrontational Vanessa (Patricia Duffin), to the unlucky-in-love Diana (Rhonda Cropp), to the ever-planning Kelly (Laura Singleton), to the self-conscious Marlene (Helen Pancella).  The story follows Amy’s journey navigating the often hostile world of fat-shaming and guilt-tripping, as well conflicting methods of motivation and encouragement. We also see in devastating detail the effects Amy’s struggles and society’s opinions have on her daughter Tara, who becomes the main focus of the play’s second act.

Weight and body image are difficult issues to handle, along with the conflicting messages society communicates about food.  There are a lot of topics here, and a lot of opinions, and most of them are given a fair and reasonable treatment. Some of the satirical elements are particularly memorable, with extremely strong comedic performances from Parvuna Sulaiman as “Thin Girl” and Darrious Varner as “Thin Guy” and a variety of other characters. The central figures of Amy and Tara are also well cast, with Caturah’s extremely relateable performance serving as the anchor for this production, and Moser’s devastatingly intense portrayal of Tara as the highlight of the play’s especially emotional second act. There are also strong performances from Kargus as the well-meaning but shallow Joel, Duffin as the brash activist Vanessa, Christa Williams as Amy’s conflicted sister Heather, Olivia Pilon as Tara’s bullied classmate Jessa, and the rest of the well-chosen cast.  Everyone’s story here is believable even when the subject matter can be harsh and some characters unlikable. Even though not everyone is going to relate to every opinion or topic, for anyone who has ever struggled with issues of weight and/or body image, there will be something here with which to relate.

The set design, by Elaine Laws, is simple and effective, taking advantage of the Chapel’s floor space to present a variety of places and situations.  Director Andrea Standby has used the space well, and the production is well-paced. The lighting and sound by Kevin Bowman also contributes well to the overall cohesiveness of the production.

Fat is a challenging play. It approaches its subject matter in a variety of ways, from the highly personal to the broadly satirical, and for the most part, this varying approach works well.  There’s a lot to think and talk about here, to ponder and to agree or disagree. For people–and particularly women–who have ever dealt with any of theses issues first-hand, this is going to bring up a lot of memories, but also some new ideas and experiences as well. It’s an ambitious new work, and a strong debut for this bold new theatre company.

Jeff Kargus, Alicen Moser
Photo by Adam Shaw
because why not? theatre company

because why not? theatre company is presenting Fat at The Chapel until March 11, 2017.

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