Review: 'Born Fat' at Seven Angels

Nancy Sasso Janis

The world premiere of ‘Born Fat’ was held at Seven Angels on Friday evening. The play from the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival is the story of the life journey of Waterbury’s own Elizabeth Petruccione, the founder of Losing Weight with Elizabeth and it stars the talented April Woodall in this one-woman show. 

During the ninety-minute piece, the audience feels as if they are attending one of Elizabeth’s weight loss seminars. We hear about the compulsive eating habits that she had as a child, her relationship with the mother who put her on a variety of diets as a young girl, her series of failed marriages that deepened her depression, and the loss of her child...all very heavy parts of her life that are told with a strong dose of humor. We lose track of how many pounds she has gained and lost as her journey unfolds, but, oh, how we laugh. Despite the weightiness of this inspiring woman’s life, the work moves quickly and the strong direction of Steven Raider-Ginsburg makes for a fascinating tale of success. 

The script is based on the best selling memoir “You Were Born Fat” by Elizabeth Petruccione. The vignettes of Elizabeth’s life, mixed with weight loss tips and social commentary, is fast-paced and surprisingly less weighty than one would expect given the tragedy that this woman has endured as her weight vacillated with her highs and lows. Before opening her own Waterbury business, she worked for a corporate weight loss program that has been cheekily renamed in the script, but it is pretty easy to figure out which big business did not treat her very well. Most of the names of the characters in her life have also been changed with a twinkle in the author’s eye. 

This play was written by CT’s own Jacques Lamarre, the playwright of ‘I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti’ that I was unfortunately not been able to catch the two times that is has run at Seven Angels in Waterbury. Mr. Lamarre is the author of several other works produced at TheaterWorks Hartford and elsewhere and one called ‘Jacques Lamarre Has Gone Too Far’ at Hole in the Wall Theatre. He has worked in theatre administration for Hartford Stage, Yale Rep and TheaterWorks and is a theatre critic for and Manchester Journal Inquirer. Yes, I was impressed by his resume and I enjoyed speaking to both him and director Steven Raider-Ginsburg at the opening night reception following the performance. The director who lives in New Haven is the Director of the Autorino Center for the Arts at the University of St. Joseph and co-founded the HartBeat Ensemble, a theater company in Hartford. 

Ms. Woodall did such a phenomenal job of channeling Ms. Petruccione, who attended the joyous opening night with many family and friends, that the hometown audience was quickly taken in. The frequent references to the Brass City did not go unnoticed and as delivered by this Equity actress, they only added to the fun. I was impressed with the energy and talent that she poured into her non-stop performance. Daniel Husvar designed the simple church basement set and collected the perfect props. Some good incidental music was period appropriate, as were some projection slides. Sound design by Matt Martin included excellent use of a microphone on a stand for the voices of others.  
Tickets for January 16-31 performances are $27.50. If you mention it was recommended by someone in the audience on opening night (like me,) the box office will give you a buy one, get one free deal on a pair of tickets for this weekend.  

Pictured: April Woodall (left) with Elizabeth Petruccione Photo by Paul Roth