Among the phenomena currently on view at UpStage in NoDa is an affirmation that people whose names begin with Q are eager to herald their contentment. With Jenn Quigley's new Quixotic Theatre opening last weekend with Fat Pig, dovetailing with the final weekend of Quentin Talley's latest On Q production, the Q.C. now has two Q companies.
Directed and designed by Sean Kimbro, the Charlotte premiere of Fat Pig is a lot to swallow even if you don't opt for the dinner option, which allows you to feast upon the menu of the nearby Boudreaux's Cajun restaurant. Brianna Smith serves up a deliciously complex portrait of Helen, a self-confident but obese librarian who attracts Tom Sullivan during a chance lunch encounter - basically, by challenging the wishy-washy office worker on his political correctness.
Obstacles to Helen's conquest are two of Tom's co-workers. Jeannie thinks she's Tom's girlfriend, thinks they have a developing relationship, but can't understand his lack of initiative. Carter is apparently Tom's best friend at the office, but the pig label fits him better than anyone else we see.
So Smith's achingly honest portrayal of Helen isn't the only attraction as we watch her relationship with Tom develop, an often queasy and discomfiting spectacle. Despite her tendency toward sly manipulation, we're ultimately sympathetic toward Helen, but Samuel Crawford will likely leave you deeply ambivalent as Tom - precisely because he embodies faults we all have so well.
Martina Logan and Christopher Herring as Jeannie and Carter are easier to loathe unconditionally. Yet despite their hateful bigotry, both offer glimmers of humanity that could - with considerable cultivation - flower into decency. Both will make you cringe, either because their prejudices are so cruel and vile or because they hold up a mirror to your own.