"Fat Pig"

Neil Lebute’s biting look at how society views overweight people is brought to life by a sharp cast in the daVinci Players’ production of “Fat Pig.” The cast is, from left, Jacinda Rose Swinehart as Helen, Jonathan Northover as Carter, Shanna Brock as Jeannie and Alex Samaniego as Tom.

A sharp and biting script well acted by a talented cast help make “Fat Pig” a must-see experience for people who like to be challenged as well as entertained.

Playwright and filmmaker Neil Labute is known for creating stories that can be difficult to watch, but equally difficult to ignore, such as “In the Company of Men” and “The Shape of Things.”

His play “Fat Pig” is a brutally honest commentary on our cultural obsession with physical appearance and self-image.

The play is being performed by the daVinci Players of Studio Connections, weekends through Nov. 27 at St. Francis in the Foothills, 4625 E. River Road in Tucson.

The play is witty and charming, and often uncomfortable and harsh as its characters explore the world of “I know it’s not fair but that’s the way society is,” when dealing with weight issues, or any physical variation that people want to avoid.

Director Robert Encila’s cast brings Labute’s commentary to life. Both the words and the characters get under our skin. Each brings a different viewpoint to the story.

There’s Helen, played by Jacinda Rose Swinehart, the overweight librarian who is funny and sweet, and has learned to live with her size. She meets Tom (Alex Samaniego) at a local eatery when he is looking for a place to sit.

She thinks his off-handed comment about the large size of the restaurant is about her. He’s embarrassed she would think he would say such a thing. They strike up an appealing conversation that both would like to continue on future dates.

The problem is, Tom dreads how his buddies at work will respond to Helen’s size. He leaves his co-worker Carter (Jonathan Northover) hanging when Carter asks about the new girl in Tom’s life. Tom’s ex, Jeannie (Shanna Brock), the accountant in his office, also wants more details.

Each actor does a fine job of bringing their character to life. I immediately liked Swinehart and Samaniego, whose chemistry felt natural and likeable. Swinehart is especially appealing, with a twinkle in her eye and a lilt in her voice. It’s easy to see why Tom is attracted to her and her honest approach to life.

Samaniego’s Tom effectively captures the frustration of someone who fears being disliked.

Northover and Brock are also well cast. Their Carter and Jeannie can be hard to watch – they represent reality whereas Tom wants to live in a dream world. But both perform their difficult task well.

The play raises more questions than it gives answers to the issue. I wished there were a discussion group afterward to talk about the characters and their frailties. And that, to me, is the mark of good theater.

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-19 and Nov. 25-26, and 2 p.m. Nov. 20 and 27.

General admission is $20; student, senior citizen and military admissions are $18.

For tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com, or call 1-800-838-3006.

Studio Connections is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing excellence in visual and performing arts education fostering leadership, artistic voice, and peaceful community building.

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