Fat Pig and
Tom meets Helen in a cafeteria, and is attracted to her by her openness, impertinence, and self-deprecating humor. They start dating, but her obesity embarrasses Tom so much that he can't bring himself to tell his co-workers about his new love. When they find out, their reactions are extreme. Jeannie, an ex-fling of Tom's, is outraged and hurt that Tom could prefer someone so heavy, and thinks he's doing it just to hurt her. Carter, an obnoxious loafer, ridicules Tom's choice. Eventually Carter's words ring in Tom's head as Tom and Helen have to make some difficult choices.
The female characters are rather simplistic typesJeannie is pretty on the outside but ugly within, while Helen is one of the guys, a free spirit who is happy with her body the way it is. As for the men, Carter revels in being the jerk at work; "I am needy and shallow," he says proudly. He says whatever's on his mind, no matter how repulsive it may seem. Yet Carter's spite is tempered with concern; he seems to want the best for Tom, even if he phrases that concern in a juvenile and profane way. As for Tom, he's in a constant state of denialhe denies the relationship exists, then he denies that he has any concerns about the relationship. Eventually, somethingor someonehas to break.
Paul Felder has all the best lines as Carter, and he makes the most of them. Tom can't keep Carter from butting into his life, and it's no wonderFelder is so entertaining that he's impossible to ignore. Ed Renninger captures all of Tom's conflicted emotions nicely. Melissa Joy Hart brings a lot of warmth and intelligence to the role of Helen. Hart and Renninger have terrific chemistry, and one never doubts their mutual attraction for a moment. As Jeannie, Erin Mulgrew seems a step or two behind her co-stars, rarely conveying the joy in performing that the other actors dobut then again, she has the thinnest role (in more ways than one).
Maura Roche has provided an efficient, no-nonsense set design, which matches the production's tone well. These characters say what they mean, and in this 90-minute production, little feels wasted. Fat Pig is troubling and thought-provokingand, in this production, very effective.
Fat Pig runs through May 1, 2010 and is presented by Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb Street, Norristown, Pa. Ticket prices range from $18 to $28 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-283-2230, or online at www.theatrehorizon.org.
Adapted by Jody Davidson from the Laura Numeroff/Felicia Bond children's book, it's all about a mouse with a talent for causing trouble, and a boy who tries (without much success) to control him. What little plot there is serves as merely an excuse for a series of comedy routines, but the two-person cast performs those routines with a stunningly high level of skill. As the mouse, Steve Pacek has a real flair for slapstick. Pacek's encounter with a mirror is a variation on one of the Marx Brothers' most famous skits, but director Whit MacLaughlin has staged it with a lot of invention (plus some technology that the Marxes never got to use). David Raphaely plays the boy, and he's more than just an excellent straight man; he gets to show off his own talent for physical comedy. The two actors are greatly aided by David P. Gordon's outlandishly exaggerated set and the clever music and video design by Jorge Cousineau.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie doesn't have any big lessons to impart, but parents won't mind. They'll probably be laughing almost as hard as their kids when they see this astonishingly creative production.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie runs through June 13, 2010 at the Arden Theatre Company, 40 North Second Street. Ticket prices range from $16 to $32 (with group discounts available) and may be purchased by calling the Arden Box Office at 215-922-1122, online at www.ardentheatre.org or in person at the box office.