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Fat Tuesday
Presented by i_rose_productions

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Reviewed: 2005-07-23 14:25:55
Rated: 5 out of 10 [2.5 Stars]
By: John Chase (Director@winnipegonstage.com)

I was invited to see "Fat Tuesday", the latest from i_rose_productions, so I went. As the house-lights were dimming, I realised that I hadn't actually stopped to read the description of the show in my program. I knew it was about a girl trying to "come out of her shell" at Mardi Gras, though not if I was supposed to be in for a drama, a comedy, or both. Unfortunately, having now seen the show -- I'm still not certain.

The character embarking upon this quest is Loren (as portrayed by Lisa Martin), who is academically intelligent, anally organised, and tries to control every element of her life right down to the smallest detail. She is shy around others, socially awkward, and could not, if her life depended on it, bring herself to actually approach and talk to a stranger.

Ms Martin -- upon whose shoulders falls the task of carrying the entire production -- acted believably and was humorous at the proper times, though I found she lacked levels. Until the climax of the production, her performance remained almost entirely consistent at a single level of voice, emotion, and energy, which differed mainly between neurotic, and more neurotic. Her character is established as one that does not deal well with others, yet deals incredibly well with herself. Unfortunately, her single-level consistency remained even between talking to other characters (the public) and speaking to the audience (herself). Therein, I feel she missed an excellent opportunity as a performer to show us much grander shadings and contrasts between these two very different sides of her character.

As frivolity goes, the show didn't lack for laughs, clever lines, and even a bit of eye candy (though as a forewarning to the other straight men out there, if you're seeing this show based on the "nudity" warning in the Fringe program, you're going to be rather disappointed). Even with a minimal set, there was plenty of visual appeal, as well as several very good actors.

To me, the shining light of the cast was Geoff Trubiak as Loren's hotel attendant Maurice, and I also thoroughly enjoyed the comic relief provided by Adam Jennings as her openly gay best friend Stevie. A very honourable mention must also go to Chris Penner, the trumpet player, who provided live interludes between the scenes and gave the show's atmosphere a very real out-on-the-street feel.

Ultimately, however, every performer must work within the limitations of their script, which I feel was the single largest problem with this show. Obviously, Loren's shyness and insecurity are a major problem that affects her everyday life. However, in dealing with personal or psychological issues, the script delivers far too much of the "what" and much too little of the "why". Theories are presented as to why Loren is the way she is, but it's only barely touched upon in comparison to the characters numerous speeches of the "what". Every few minutes for the bulk of the show, we hear Loren deliver monologue after monologue simply about the fact that she has problems with herself: that she's shy, that she's insecure, that she can't talk to strangers, that she's lonely, that she's unhappy... Loren, my dear, we get the point.

The big problem with this formula, as I see it, is that it doesn't reach out beyond those who already understand the character's dilemma. To be effective, a show about someone with personal problems needs to earn the sympathy of the audience in general, but an individual cannot sympathise with something they don't understand. I'll believe that any attendee who went through a stage of life similar to Loren's sympathised greatly with the character; but I could not, having not experienced such a thing myself, and not having it expressed in any more universal terms that I as an audience member could relate to.

Instead of using more of its 75 minutes to show a gradual arc in Loren's character, the play continued to tell me, for so much of it, how deeply entrenched her problems with herself were, that when the time finally came on Fat Tuesday for her to do the 180-degree turnaround that would lead her to her happy ending, the character change came on so fast and contrary to everything I'd heard up until that point that I must classify the ending of this show (happy though it is) as deus ex machina.

If you want to see a fun, visual production about Mardi Gras as experienced through the eyes of a completely neurotic chick, Fat Tuesday may be the show for you... For my part, in spite of all the talent and potential talent on that stage, "hey, that was fun" sums up my feelings toward what could have been a very meaningful show.

John Chase
July 23, 2005

(Note: This production is part of the 2005 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Visit - http://www.winnipegfringe.com/ )

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