Supersize Mean

Power couple: Walsh, Matt Oberg, and Pentecost
photo: John Clancy

Make room for Fatboy. Meaner than Stalin, hungrier than Idi Amin, deadlier than Pol Pot, he's the grotesque composite of every despot who ever lived, a voracious megalomaniac who binges on blood and destruction. He's the crude embodiment of America's vicious appetite for senseless consumption and war. He's also savagely funny.

Playwright-director John Clancy has supersized Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, but aside from a few winking topical references, he re-creates the original's anarchic spirit. This is not an update so much as a stern reminder: Jarry's prescient satire infamously sparked a riot at its 1896 premiere; Fatboy's audience may be less violent, but the outrage it feels at the play's targets is the same. Some plays ridicule their audience; others inspire political action. Fatboy may be the rare work that does both.

Not bad for a farce that spends most of its 75-minute stage time on broad slapstick and sex gags. In a nod to Ubu's origins as a puppet show, Soho Think Tank's production is monstrously cartoonish, with outrageously padded costumes by Michael Oberle and kitschy painted flats by Kelly Hanson. The actors never deliver a punchline when they can scream it. As the titular tyrant, the blustering Del Pentecost chews the scenery. Literally. And Nancy Walsh plays his wife, the power-mad nymphomaniac Queen Fudgie I, as a vaudeville Lady Macbeth. They head a mean cast that dares to turn on its audience, to lecture and mock them with bilious contempt. What's not to love?


By John Clancy
Ohio Theater
66 Wooster Street

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