Phat pig

Fat Pig
8pm Thu-Sat, 2:30 Sun
Through May 13
$15 general; $12 senior, military; $8 student
Attic Theater
Ruth Taylor Theater Bldg
Trinity University
You are what you eat. You're also who you drink with, or so Neil LaBute's Fat Pig deftly intimates. Yes, in the corporate world of non-work and non-play, it's your non-friends who define you, and usually they're assholes.

Tom is a healthy, upwardly mobile businessman. Helen is a plus-size printed-word specialist (that's librarian, natch). Their unlikely initial encounter only occurs because Helen calls him out on an insult he grumbles while passing by her in a restaurant. (Nothing says meet-cute like "Pretty big.") But confident Helen turns the offense on its head and the result is an uncannily pleasant lunch - the kind that ends in digit-exchanging.

But what should then develop into a whole, fulfilling relationship, is stunted by the shape of Helen - or rather, others' aversion to it. Tom is relentlessly ridiculed in his workplace, which may as well be the entire world; for as we know, offices and agencies are microcosms, chock-full of basketball teammates, drinking buddies, and old flames. As Carter (a scene-stealing Rick Frederick), Tom's coworker and "friend," adroitly expresses, his personal repulsion to Helen merely represents his fear of being like her. When Tom claws the small bulge of his belly in the beach scene, lamenting "look at me," it's especially telling: As much as Tom believes he loves Helen, Carter's fears are also his - and it seems they've manifested.

The stage of the intimate Attic Theater is decked with vast hanging photo installations by Marcella Hackbardt, and, when touched by light in the otherwise dark room, they very nearly resemble impeccably crafted stained glass. The subject is a gloriously soft, rippled, rolled, nude woman. At first the images seem unnecessarily overpowering and ever-present as a part of the set, but as the play progresses it becomes clear that the photos reflect the characters' preoccupations, answering the question "What would Helen look like naked?"

The wonderful Jennifer Colacino makes Helen a provocative, fun bully of a woman; a cousin of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's Clementine. But her character's needless repetitions of  "thank you" - often as a non sequitur - to Tom, stomach-turningly evoke the dog's lines in Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights, and betray her sense of inadequacy.

Eric Lozano holds his own as Tom, believably portraying a person who is struggling to set himself apart from people like Carter. And Reneè Garvens brings complexity to what could have been a one-note role ­- that of Tom's professional superior and one-time girlfriend.

Fat Pig's only real shortcoming is in its blacked-out transitions, sometimes scored with Dave Matthews tunes and eliciting (non-purposefully) applause that drew me out of the moment of the play, and back into the real world.

Unfortunately, the real world is just as cruel as LaBute's imagined ones. Fat Pig's contemplation of female body image pairs well with his The Shape of Things (if you feel like a play-read or a movie-rental after the show), which focuses on the manipulation of a male body. Ultimately, it's unfathomably easier to alter a person's physical self than their innate nature. Maybe it comes down to the company you keep: As long as you choose to laugh at the same jokes, to look at the same asses, is there room for radical change?


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