A Fat Pig Comes to Jerusalem

by Brian on November 18, 2010

in In the News,Reviews

Carter and Tom in "Fat Pig" (Dana Dekel, Jerusalem Post)

A play called “Fat Pig” doesn’t sound like a likely candidate for an evening of light entertainment. But that’s the point. Sara Halevi’s Way Off Productions, which is staging Neil LaBute’s weighty and award-winning work in Jerusalem through the end of November, is dedicated to using theater “as a tool for social change,” says Halevi, also the director.

In “Fat Pig,” Tom, a good-looking executive, falls for Helen, a plus-size librarian.  Tom’s friends chide him mercilessly about his new romance, making both Tom and the audience squirm until the arrival a truly surprising (and not necessarily crowd-pleasing) ending.

Halevi wants audiences to think, not just enjoy another comedy (although there are plenty of laughs in “Fat Pig”). To that end, “Fat Pig” is a success, raising some disturbing questions about body image and “what’s socially acceptable in the eyes of the world,” Halevi told The Jerusalem Post.

Halevi started her theater company almost through the back door. She had dabbled in theater during college but trained as a clinical psychologist.

A few years ago, she started using theater as a therapeutic tool at a school for teens at risk. After accompanying the students on a trip to Poland, Halevi guided the kids as they created an original play about their experience. Halevi says she saw an immediate healing effect. The students staged a second production on terrorism.

Halevi broke away from Jerusalem’s Center Stage Theater, where she co-directed that group’s production of “Rent,” to form Way Off in 2009. Her company most recently performed a musical version of Arsenic and Old Lace. Their stage is in the El Halev studio space in the Talpiot Industrial Zone.

Unlike other English-speaking community theater groups in the city (including JEST and Encore), which are mainly volunteer, Halevi’s team operates as a collective, sharing equally any profits after expenses.

“Fat Pig” is well directed and acted. The 5-person cast of English-speaking immigrants has some decent acting chops. David Hilfstein who plays Tom has worked off-Broadway; Lev Kerzhner (Tom’s abrasive friend Carter) gained TV exposure last year on the soap opera “15 minutes.”

It was a shame, then, that the theater space (already small by local standards) was less than half full on the night I attended. Halevi isn’t surprised. Jerusalem is a tough city, she says. A flyer posted at a local hairdresser’s shop had to be taken down when residents objected to the play’s name. And says Levi, in contrast to Tel Aviv, “it’s hard to get Jerusalemites out at night.”

Halevi isn’t discouraged. She’s already working on the next production, Jonathan Tollin’s Twilight of the Golds,” about a Jewish family grappling with a new genetic test which can determine sexual preference of a fetus in utero.

In the meantime, there are still a few more performances of “Fat Pig” before the show closes. More information at wayoffproductions@gmail.com.

We saw Fat Pig on Tuesday night and this review appeared yesterday on Israelity.

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