Weight Loss World (Theatre Under Pressure) – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Adam Collier

Weight Loss World was performed at St. Vladimir’s Theatre as part of Fringe. A company called Theatre Under Pressure produced the show.

There was a unique enthusiasm in the audience on the night I went to Weight Loss World.

“Let’s sit front row” – I overheard one patron say to another – “that’s like VIP!”

“Pfft – more like VI-Crazy!” was the reply. And then they laughed.

The crowd was buoyant – giggling often, and unexpectedly bursting with laughter at a few moments. One such moment came when four of the characters purge on stage.

Weight Loss World is set at something-like a gym or a fitness resort (if there is such a thing). The young clients are there to drop pounds. Though they don’t appear overweight, some of them are intent of cutting their individual weight by nearly half.

An image of three clients – with sunken eyes and sallow cheeks and mouths agape – opens the show. It isn’t clear how long they have been in the program, but they look gruesome – this got huge laughs.

At another point we see the clients eating what looks like over-cooked pasta or oatmeal (or both). It is a putrid sight. Again, there were big laughs.

Weight Loss World also has a few vignettes near the end that waver between sad poignancy and absurdity. We see the clients after they are out of the program reading fat-related insults into the innocuous things that other people say to them.

The humor, that often seems to emerge for the cruelty and pain (and occasionally is just slapstick as in a treadmill scene), was surprising to me. Though I was apprehensive of the show because of the title (I thought to myself, ‘Here we go with another riff on self-image in society’), playwright (and director) Chris Michael Burns takes an extreme position on his subject and – very commendably – doesn’t hold back exploring this position.

The cast of five (Shealyn Angus, Andrew Aquino, Laurel Brady and Jennifer Krukowski, and Michael David Lorsch) works well together. And though the character often seem to be no more than caricatures of people with self-image problems (Weight Loss World is far more an exploration of a psychological construct than of characters), the cast does a very crowd-pleasing job with the material.