“Born Fat” is a charming presentation of the story of Elizabeth Petruccione’s climb out of a dysfunctional family of origin and through several equally dysfunctional marriages to success as a motivational weight loss guru and proud Waterbury fixture. The format replicates a “meeting” in a church basement where Elizabeth (the effervescent April Woodall) welcomes the audience and shares her whole motivational tale.
The centerpiece of the story is her mother’s mantra, repeated to Elizabeth over and over in her childhood, that she was ‘born fat.’ Long years later, after a lot of yo-yo diets, and with her mother’s death and other tough losses behind her, Elizabeth realized that ‘you were born fat’ was a phrase she did not have to pledge allegiance to, and she was able to go slender, and keep the fat off.
Some of the science that is referred to in the production may not pan out, but what probably really does is the valuable therapeutic confrontation of the mother’s declaration, and Elizabeth’s decision to no longer live with the hurtful phrase. Eric Berne called that sort of declaration a curse that is picked up from the suggestion of the witch parent (not that the parent is a witch, but the phrase, when it’s assimilated into the child has the effect of a witch’s curse with tremendous power). So the audience, treated to a ninety-minute monologue, beautifully performed, sighs with relief and claps with abandon when Elizabeth reaches the point of no return in a significant breakout.
I imagine that a lot of audience members were able to identify in some way with the trauma of the mother’s poor parenting, and many a post-performance conversation unraveled ‘what my mother said and how it affected me.’
The set (Daniel Husvar) was comfortable, with a circle of chairs and a movie screen that implied a church basement. The projections were not eloquent, which may have been intentional. Director Steven Raider-Ginsburg seemed pleased with Ms. Woodall’s impressive prancing, and so did the audience, who by and large bought into her smiling presentation of a story that was not all smiles.
“Born Fat” is worth a visit, and a fun show. Tickets and information at www.sevenangelstheatre.org, or 203-757-4676.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre