Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler chats with star and producer of the much-anticipated revival of Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, opening at L.A.’s Hudson Mainstage Theatre.
Deidra Edwards lives in a big town (L.A.), has big dreams (aspiring actress) and has taken on one of the biggest tasks in show biz—producing a revival of Fat Pig, the controversial play by Neil LaBute that premiered in 1994 at MCC Theatre in New York City. For a decade, Edwards has had an on-again-off-again affair with the work and recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $18,000 to produce the play. But that’s not all. She personally wrote to the author—meticulously outlining her passion and commitment for the project—he subsequently gave the revival his blessing and even offered the use of some new material he has since written to the production.
Edwards said she first heard of the script through a friend who saw the casting breakdown. The subject line of the email: “Don’t be mad at me.” But Edwards saw beyond the play’s title and knew that LaBute must have had good reason for using the derogatory phrase. She flew herself to New York City, contacted the casting office without even having an agent, and managed to secure a callback. She was also called back for the 2007 L.A. production at Geffen Playhouse. Still, no dice.
Continuing to pursue acting, Edwards says, “As my understanding of the craft of storytelling grew, this particular play crept back to me. I could see different things in the story that I had never seen before.”
“Despite the title of the play, it’s Tom’s story,” asserts director Alexis Jacknow, who recently worked as LaBute’s associate director on L.A. Theatre Works’ production of Reasons to be Happy. “It’s about being able to claim your own happiness in the face of societal pressure. It speaks to everyone.”
“People might look at the title and think it’s going to be about one thing, but it turns out—in the end—to ultimately be about something quite different,” explains LaBute. “It’s a study in weakness—particularly the weakness of this man who falls in love with someone, and then doesn’t have the backbone, the spine to live up to those convictions.”
Edwards and cast have embraced the rehearsal process, diving into the complex characters and discovering their motivations and fears. “The process has been really exciting. It’s been very collaborative. What I think is really interesting is the way that Neil has written these people. They are so beautiful and real. He gives us the clues to find out why we are the way we are in the context in the story.”
The setting of the play is “in a big city near the ocean,” which seems to fit both its original production as well as its west coast incarnations, though Edwards is quick to point out that the character of Tom’s insecurities could easily apply to any number of scenarios as he weakens under societal pressures. “She could be a man or a different race—anything that society deems isn’t okay.”
As for Edwards? She says she’s never been happier in her life. “I can tell you a story and have a shared experience with you.” And while that experience may make some people squirm in their seats because of its raw, honest emotion—it’s certainly one worth revisiting.
Hudson MainStage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles
Through June 1.