Before I talk about Fat Men in Skirts we need to talk about the company that is putting it on, Molotov Theatre Group, because more than anything else, this is just Molotov being Molotov. One of the main reasons MTG exists is to put on plays that nobody else would even think about doing. Their commitment to preserving the tradition of the Grand Guignol (French horror theater) is their defining characteristic. And this is what I love about them. I don’t have to adore every play they do because I appreciate the strong commitment they have to the process of doing them.
Molotov Theatre is to the DC theater community what Björk is to the music world. I don’t have to love every song she makes to be really happy about the fact that she is out there making them.
Now about the play.
I enjoyed Fat Men in Skirts as much as one can enjoy a play that involves mental illness, rape, murder, and incest. I thought it was well performed by all four actors, Katie Culligan, Dave Gamble, K. Clare Johnson, and Matthew Marcus. Each gives performances that are nuanced and convincing (again, as nuanced and convincing as they can be when considering the aforementioned content).
The best part of the show is the writing. Nicky Silver’s script has some uniquely funny moments, mixed in seamlessly with the dark and the demented. The cast commits to the dialogue well, and everyone seems very earnest in their portrayal. I was not convinced at every moment, but I sensed a strong passion for the material all the way through.
In the show, a mother and son are marooned on a desert island for five years while the husband/father is off mourning and simultaneously gallivanting in their absence. Clearly, the experience is rough on everyone, and we see them all lose their grip on sanity.
The play poses some interesting “what would you do” questions and challenges the audience to play along by continually breaking down the fourth wall. It’s a fascinating premise and it makes for an engaging show.
If anything, the show seems a little reserved for Molotov. The last time I saw a show they did, I was handed a poncho as I came in to protect my clothes from the copious blood splatter. It was like a cross between a play, a slasher flick, and a Gallagher show.
By comparison, this play was mild. Sure, it had a little bit of blood, but I wasn’t worried about getting any of it on me. It was certainly more cerebral than the last show I saw, but this was in no way a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed this more refined, psychological approach to their usual goal of probing the dark and murky caverns of our collective subconscious.
While the play did inspire some interesting questions about how I might behave in a similar situation (I hope differently than they did!) the most important question I was left with was this: “would anybody else in DC even try to do a play like this?” The answer is an unequivocal “no”. It may not have been the best play I’ve ever seen, or even the best Fringe show I’ve been to, but I was glad to get to see it. I’m happy to know that someone is out there, trying new things and preserving old traditions, like Molotov Theatre group is. Well, as happy as I can be when the things they are preserving come with a risk of blood splatter.
Note: this performance is listed as being 90 min, but the showing I saw was closer to 105 min. It was not too long (well, maybe a little) but plan accordingly if you’re rushing to see another show after this one.
Josh rates this a 4, out of a possible top rating of 5.
See more Fringe reviews here.