by Stu Brown
The true story of Waterbury native Elizabeth Petruccione, who battled weight problems and survived personal traumas to become a renowned inspirational speaker, is the basis for playwright Jacques Lamarre’s one woman show, Born Fat. The setting is the basement of a church. Elizabeth (April Woodall), energetic and good-natured, prowls the stage throwing out humorous one-liners and bon mots of advice as a prelude to her self-defined mission of empowering individuals to take hold of their lives in regards to body image.
The 80 minute play is a hybrid of self-confessional personal life stories and religious revival meeting. Lamarre alternates between vignettes of family heartbreak and anguish and uplifting boosterism to convey Petruccione’s journey to self-salvation. The tricky part of crafting a one person show is there needs to be enough of an emotional connection and story telling to spellbind and draws in the audience. Born Fat is somewhat successful in meeting this objective, but not enough of the source material is tapped into to totally satisfy this goal.
April Woodall as the scarred, yet successfully perseverant Elizabeth Petruccione, is a bundle of energy. Her ebullience and never wavering spirits are matched by a wholehearted sincerity. The actress is a worthy guide as she relates the suffering, humiliation and, finally, the triumphs of her character.
Director Steve Raider-Ginsburg struggles with keeping a consistent dramatic arc throughout the production. He busies Ms. Woodall with rearranging furniture and bounding about the stage in between her monologues. But the stagecraft’s fussiness and impact does not always keep the audience’s attention. The musical interludes and grainy projections, while keeping with the informal nature of the play, come across as awkward.
Born Fat, playing at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury through January 31st.