According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Review: "Fat Boy" by Jonathan Cristaldi

Fat Boy shocks, Fat Boy expunges, and Fat Boy indulges in diatribes that should at least make Alfred Jarry turn over in his grave. Inspired by the "Ubu" series Mr. Jarry is known for, this new work by Founding Artistic director of the New York International Fringe Festival, John Clancy, delivers a message that may be hard to stomach for much of its audience: There's a little Fat Boy in us all; so what are you going to do about it?

Fat Boy is an obstreperous bulky representation of just about anything you like, or dislike: a politician, a patriot, a thief, a lover, a veteran, a landlord, a butcher, etc. He is poor, so broke and starving he eats his own furniture; so self-consumed and vile he kills a helpless peasant girl and later tries to kill his own wife, but not before she attempts to assassinate him. But this is only a subtle hint at the havoc that ensues onstage. And though killed several times, Fat Boy never dies, in fact, reminds us constantly that he is only playing a part – and we might give him great props for delivering such an inspiring performance.

The play itself is pure spectacle – purposefully cheap sets and actors caked in clown-face, the acting presentational and Elizabethan-esque: hands in the air, soliloquies galore. And better than the metaphors or references to the current socio-political state of our world affairs, the play offers no apology for feeling the way it does: angry, betrayed, belittled, and shameless in its harangues. In 1896, there was a riot at the first performance of Ubu Roi when Firmin Gemier, playing Ubu, took the stage and exclaimed: "Merdre!" at the audience. Now, in 2006, when Del Pentecost as Fat Boy shouts words far worse and demands of his audience they do something, there are no riots, no shouts of blasphemy – only silence. You can feel people's thoughts bouncing around the theatre: someone they know in the war; that woman who camped outside President Bush's Texas Ranch – what's her name? Imagining how they would feel if someone drew a funny cartoon of Jesus or Mary or the Pope. But in their silence the thoughts pass, and the house lights brighten and remind everyone they have a train or taxi to catch – maybe a glass of wine to drink first.

This begs the question: are we so desensitized? Or are we just more polite than people who went to the theater in the 19 century were? I doubt the later. If Mr. Clancy is looking to provoke his audiences, he's certainly forcing them to listen, but is he asking them to react as well? Perhaps, the lack of response is more powerful than any riot or strike because what it exposes is a communal despair, helplessness in the wake of sudden and uncontrollable changes, when everything you've known transforms and the solution is not as easy as lowering the curtain and getting out of costume.

The ensemble of actors in "Fat Boy" present some of the best comedic timing and melodromatic acting you'll see. Go see this. Go see it now.

Fat Boy
8pm, Wed-Sat
7pm, Sun @ the Ohio Theatre
until March 25th
66 Wooster Street, between Spring and Broome

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