by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Playing at Theatre Asylum on Santa Monica Blvd., as a Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014 Encore extension, The Most Massive Woman Wins, by Madeleine George and directed by Lish Ananda, opened the 2014-15 inaugural season for the Poor Man Theatre Company, and I will say, it was definitely a great choice.

The Most Massive Woman Wins takes a look at how today’s society and the media has arrested women’s bodies away from them.  Espousing rhetoric that takes a journey with four ladies as they claim their bodies back, this play attempts to become a champion for Woman’s Rights and “girl power.”

“Baby Got Back!”

Opening to the music of Sir Mix-a-lot we get a close up view of four women in the waiting room of the surgeon who is going to transform their bodies from the socially unacceptable, overweight, bingers to (in a land far far away) more svelte and shapely, more lovable, more desirable versions of themselves.  Selves that will be taken more seriously and hold more “weight” without all the fat.

Each tells her story, of subjugation and bullying: eating disorders that begin in early childhood from criticisms; teasing in the form of school-yard paddy-cake rhymes by other children; mothers who bribe them into patient and good behavior with treats, off-handedly encouraging habits that start them on the road to obesity; the humiliation of being paraded around as the not quite perfect daughter; the inability to live up to the current GQ version of the female ideal, the cutting, the secret snacking, the eating for love, the teenage pregnancies and all the worst choices that each makes from feeling outcast in her own own body.

As the story progresses it actually becomes more universal than just a story about fat girls.  It really is the “war on women”; how we are expected to be pretty, silent, silly, perfect, automaton, decorations or maids and want nothing at all.  And it becomes crystal clear that these women eat because they are SO emotionally starved.

It is truly black box theatre, but certainly not at it’s barest.  And it works, most of the time. There is movement choreography which tends to be a bit naive and obscure.  Check that off to inexperience but not for lack of imagination.  And there are empty holes in the direction. But otherwise, the intention was all there and each woman fully dedicated herself to this performance.  By the end, it was hard not to see them as a slowly emerging force, albeit at the beginning stages, to be reckoned with.

Melibelle Lavandier (Rennie), Marta Portillo (Sabine), and Jenelle Russell, (Cel) captured every bit of the spirit, heartbreak, language, longing, frustration and silent anger of today’s women and young girls.  Cherilyn Walker (Carly) knocked a home run right out the park with her performance which was thoroughly honest and plain out “gutsy”.  Ava Violetta Laurel (Receptionist) played a fine touch supporting role.

Well done!  A performance that stands centered on its feet and talks about the issues as women “experience” them.

The only disappointment about this show was that there were just three performances.

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