BWW Review: Lisa Lampanelli's Poignant and Funny STUFFED Explores Body Image and Relationships With Food
Though her aggressive style of dishing out insults has earned her the title of standup comedy's Queen of Mean, Lisa Lampanelli comes somewhat closer to being the Empress of Empathy in her comedy revue about the serious subject of food and body image, STUFFED.
Lampanelli appears as herself in the 90-minute show she authored, and right off the bat reveals to the audience that in her 56 years on earth, she has lost and gained over 372 pounds. ("That is 17 Sarah Jessica Parkers.")
Growing up Italian, she explains, unlimited food was the norm all day every day and eating was regarding as the way the family bonded.
"All I knew was," she recalls, "when I ate, that's when my mom smiled."
Lampanelli is then joined by the rest of the company, who play fictional characters based of specific types.
Raised in Texas, Britney's (Eden Malyn) favorite treat is Frito pie. ("A bag of Fritos, a can of chili, cubes of Velveeta, microwaved. Best food ever!" She started on the road to bulimia at age seven at the encouragement of her laxative-popping grandma.
Katey (understudy Angela Janas at the performance this reviewer attended), appears unhealthy to many people because she cannot gain weight no matter how much she eats. The women who assume she has it easy in life and continually refer to her as a "skinny bitch" includes her own mother, who is continually dieting to reduce.
Marty (Lauren Ann Brickman) is specified in the script as being size 18 or above, and she is by far the happiest and most emotionally well-adjusted of the group. While the others discuss low points of their lives and how they eventually emerged a stronger person, Marty credits her supportive parents for allowing her to be whoever she is, and indeed, the confidence Blake exudes is a joyful presence.
Brickman also has a fun turn appearing (in a realistic, non-judgmental portrayal) as Lampanelli's 400-pound ex-boyfriend. In a fine bit of storytelling, the star tells how she met the sweet, charismatic guy while working at a Comedy Club during one of her heavier periods. Things were going swell until he started developing symptoms of diabetes. Lampanelli proposed that they both switch to healthier lifestyles together, but his complacency about his health convinced her that she had to get out of the otherwise terrific relationship.
For much of the show, the four charming and funny women banter about issues such as the appropriateness of the word fat (some have embraced it while others reject it), muffin top vs. camel toe (it seems jeans force women to accept one or the other), the attitude they receive in some clothing stores and the seemingly random way in which women's clothing sizes are assigned.
As directed by Jackson Gay, STUFFED is a healthy mixture of silliness, self-reflection and revolution against societal norms, ending with a fine shot of empowerment.