Food. Just the word, thought, and sight of it, elicits many emotions and viewpoints. Happiness, insecurity, comfort, hate, and many more.
If you are a fan of, or know of, Lisa Lampanelli and her comedic style you are aware of her raunchiness and “in your face” stand up routine. If you went in expecting that you were disappointed. This was a surprisingly tempered performance, and offered way more drama and human insight than laughs and guffaws. Body image was on the agenda, along with a discussion of foods we all know and clamor for whether during happy times, or as crutch during sad moments in life.
Not to say there weren’t any laughs, as there were more than enough along the way, but there were also some duds too ( the Trump joke was one – it’s like beating a dead horse ). Yet, this four woman show held my attention, as I found the material interesting as our obsession with food was spoken about from the life experiences of each person on stage.
Even though Lisa was the main star and Stuffed was written by her, she was not the focal point. Stage acting is not really her thing, so letting her co-stars shine with moments for each was very smart on her part. Each had a showcase to talk about some very serious moments in their life which defined them. Food obsessions, body shaming, violence, humiliation, hate, loss, love and despair which all revolve around our obsession with food. How our culture treats people, and how they are judged by what they eat and how their bodies look.
Nikki Blonsky (of Hairspray) is listed as one of the co-stars but did not appear on opening night which this was. Boooo – bad form! Still, her understudy, Lauren Ann Brickman shined with her bubbly personality, and over the top positive love of her plus-sized figure. She embraced her BBW persona and scored some good laughs. Her character learned how to accept herself for what she was. Self love is where it starts. You go girl!
Marsha Stephanie Blake (Orange Is The New Black) had a very insightful and sad background story of her character. Never accepted fully by her mother, the father of her child leaving her, and people hating on her because she can’t gain weight. It was the flip-side to how the eternal skinny girl feels, and how people view her unfairly.
Eden Malyn (House of Lies) to me had a difficult role that she pulled off quite well. It was a balance between being quirky, crazed, humorous, obsessed and tragic. As she delved into her plight and spoke of her body dysmorphic disorder it became to all how harrowing her life really was. Always seeing herself as overweight even though she wasn’t, violent fights with her ex, balancing the line of anorexia and insanity, her back story was very gripping. Especially the moment when she described the end of her relationship, and what she had to endure at the hands of her abusive former boyfriend.
Which brings me to Lisa Lampanelli. As we all are aware she is not really a trained Broadway or movie actress, and much of this material was very deep that she penned, but managed to offer a very believable amount of humanity to her role. I feel she was smart to take a step back from her “Queen of Mean” comedic personality and perform as “one of us” regular people. She opened up about her past struggles with weight, food she craved as an emotional crutch, and her decision to have gastric sleeve surgery. How food has affected her career, her health, and her personal life. Very raw and emotional.
One thing I have to make note of was the stage setup. Very sparse stage background along with a few props, lighting effects, smoke, and music. It fit just fine that the whole story featured a kitchen as the setting.
Overall, a fine job and performance by all.
It’s pretty much the kind of 90 minute performance suited for a small off-Broadway venue such as the Westside Theatre. Thanks again to CM Ruggy and Yelp for the hook up. It’s always a good thing to experience some culture on or off-Broadway.
STUFFED – http://stuffedplay.com/