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Fat Men in Skirts

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FAT MEN IN SKIRTS, Red Wolf Theatre Company, at Angel Island. Shock effects in the service of genuine pathos, Fat Men in Skirts offers grunge galore: lipstick eating, throat cutting, baby munching. No question, Nicky Silver's twisted domestic drama still detonates a ton of anger--at mother love that turns carnivorous and father love eroded by infidelity.

A plane crash strands shoe fetishist Phyllis and Bishop, her stuttering preppy son, on a desert island. After whining up a storm, Phyllis goes bonkers. Losing his stutter, Bishop turns feral and becomes a mother-obsessed murderer. Both succumb to cannibalism and incest. Mom and kid return to find dad shacked up with his pregnant mistress, a drugged-out porn starlet. Serial killer Bishop gets committed and has a marginally redemptive love affair with a schizophrenic cheerleader. He blames his craziness on the monkeys on the island. We know better.

Unlike Torso Theatre's anything-for-a-gag 1993 production, Maura Elizabeth Manning's revival (featuring nifty slide illustrations) digs beneath the gross-outs to uncover the play's dead-end desperation: every good impulse gets twisted into violence. Susan Block turns fashion victim Phyllis into a monster-making mother, Andrew Whatley's athletic Bishop fairly explodes from mama's boy into sociopath, and Matt Janes exudes phoniness as both the double-talking father and a shrink. An instant and constant delight, Paula Stevens depicts the bubbleheaded mistress and a sweet-tempered mental patient with equal gusto. This is primal comedy. --Lawrence Bommer

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