Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Pidge Meade: Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks": ☼ ☼ ☼

When Pidge Meade came home for the summer after she had put on forty pounds as a college freshman, her gymnastics coach Dad told her she had to lose that weight before he would pay a penny for her Fall semester. In "Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks" the young Pidge is faced with a monumental task -- and it is made so much harder by her father's consistently cruel commentaries on her progress. Meade, the average-sized performer, makes us root for the success of Meade, the young overweight woman. This is not such a simple task since we can already see the results with our own eyes.

Meade plays all the parts of her story -- herself, her ex-roommate in college, her father, her mother, a Carnival barker (possibly the best of all these roles), the guru of weight loss and others. Charlie Varon directs, so we can be sure there will be no wasted dialog. Meade hits her musical cues with precision and when you get done with the evening you leave with new appreciation for all the people portrayed in her show -- her parents, trying to help but helpless; her friends, dying to have her 'secret,' except that there isn't one; and most of all the plight of so many among us who face a far more daunting task to lose that weight than the rest of us ever imagine.

We loved Meade's portrayal of her parents and her side characters. We will never hear "the proof is in the pudding" again without flinching. But if the show has an Achilles heel it is that the central character, the young Pidge Meade, is not as enthralling as the others. Since the show is basically one long flashback and we are looking at the end result in front of us, we can't root as hard for her as we might if we saw her start out heavy and end up thin. So what we have is basically a travel story -- her journey matters far more than her destination. We would like her portrayal of herself, true or not, to give us a little less hand-wringing and a few more brilliant moments like the scene in the car with her Dad.

Perhaps that scene most typifies Meade's power. She is forced by her Dad to sing the show tune with which she auditioned for the lead in a school play. Pidge Meade can sing, friends! What a glorious voice -- but of course, she did not get the part and we all know why. This simple scene illustrates what so many words could not. A few more scenes like this one will take "Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks" to another level. Pidge Meade is the real deal.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Pidge Meade: Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks" Three Stars. It's a lovely show that has only now graduated to the bigger stage after Meade won the Marsh's Performance Initiative Competition. We are certain the show will grow in power as she grows out of her memory and into the hearts of her audience.


"Pidge Meade: Forty Pounds in Twelve Weeks"
The Marsh
1074 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Through March 26
$15-$35 sliding scale

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