Profiles Theatre. By Neil LaBute. Dir. Joe Jahraus. With Deborah Hearst, Darrell W. Cox, Eric Burgher, Katie Crawford.
Political correctness be damned. For LaBute’s psychologically grotesque comedy Fat Pig to click, there are three essential, non-substitutable ingredients: a punchy, vulnerable leading man with washboard abs; a believably psychotic, castrating bitch who makes mouths water when she dons a bikini; and—most important—a beautiful, funny and obese leading lady who’s unafraid to play a love scene in her bra and panties. Profiles has them, as well as one of the year’s most unsettlingly funny, viscerally wrenching plays.
LaBute’s story—simply about the office hottie who falls hard for a fat girl and subsequently dumps her after enduring his co-workers’ ridicule—comes closer than any of his other plays to his promising 1998 film debut, In the Company of Men, a movie that was interested in plumbing the ugliest depths of misogyny. Since then, he’s been content to be the kid at the lunch table who can dream up the most stomach-turning scenarios, but with no interest in fleshing out their possibilities. Fat Pig isn’t completely satisfying, most noticeably in its ungraceful ending, and when it stumbles, Jahraus’s otherwise excruciatingly intimate production hiccups along with it. Yet it daringly asks audiences to consider not just what they really want in the sack, but what we want people to think we’re capable of scoring. Cox, in his most hypernatural mode, rightly wins our affections before screwing over large lady Hearst, who gives an acting lesson in self-effacement. And in a break-out performance as the company asshole, Burgher might even best them.—Christopher Piatt