By Samual D. Hunter
Directed by Rob Winn Anderson
Starring Micheal Wanzie
Beth Marshall Presents @ The Garden Theatre
Winter Garden, FL
Size does matter, and in the case of Charlie (Wanzie) his size threatens to end his life, maybe before the curtain. Barely able to move, he spends his day helping English as A First Language students craft coherent essays. It’s all by inert and he never shows his face or frame; that’s part embarrassment and part fear of scaring his marginally literate audience away. His back story is complex: he married Mary (Beth Marshal) and they popped out a daughter Ellie (Rachel Comeau) and then two years later he met a guy and said bye-bye heterosexual happiness. The fight was as bitter as you might expect, and the real loser was his Ellie. She has refined bitterness, cruelty and rage to a fine art; she’s on the par with any third world dictator but without the spiffy uniform. When not so innocent Mormon missionary Elder Thomas (Anthony Pyatt Jr.) knocks on the door he’s sucked into the maelstrom of Charlie’s life. Elder Thomas wants to plug eternal salvation and perhaps help someone; Charlie just wants to know a critical piece of local church gossip. Charlie’s only other friend is Nurse Liz (Jamie Middleton); somehow she keeps him fed and alive and larger than life. Since Charlie can’t get out the door, it’s Liz who sets his diet and is somehow complicit in his condition. The term “Fag Hag” arises, but no one claims it.
This may well be Wanzie’s most touching role; his rasping breath and near death experiences bring you the edge of your seat. He’s in an amazingly realistic fat suit, and you can feel his joints about to burst when he struggles to rise to his feet and shuffle off to the bathroom. Mrs. Comeau provides a deadly vicious stage presence. It’s hard to imagine anyone with as much bitterness as she shows and only Charlie can find a ray of promise in her unhappy life. Ms. Marshall is only on stage for part of the last act; she, too, spews anger and resentment and the sort of twisted love only a broken household can spawn. Elder Thomas may not be the sort of missionary that the LDS’s wish to have wandering around but he does make a difference, and just like Jesus he descends from his sterile Holy of Holy’s mission to mix with the sinners and downtrodden who actually need help. Lastly we have Ms. Middleton who has somehow become Charlie’s only companion; she has most of the truly touching moments: “Wanna watch a bit of Maury Povich?” may have been the softest line in this story.
While this playis set in the remote pointy part of northern Idaho; there’s a notion of the sea surrounding the story. Director Anderson has set the stage up on risers with occasional mystical blue lighting underneath; it imples Charlie is adrift even as he’s locked down to a small skanky room. In all things, his loyalty is to his disloyal daughter; some how Charlie is better than all of us who can get up and pee without having to file a flight plan. Drama – THIS is how its done.
For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org