Posted on: Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Liposuction OK if you're 'Massive'

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

There's a small gem of a play glimmering in the 11 p.m. time slot at the Earl Ernst Lab Theatre at the University of Hawai'i.

'The Most Massive Woman Wins'
  • 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday
  • Earle Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawai'i-Manoa
  • $3
  • 956-7655
"The Most Massive Woman Wins," by Madeleine George, is a short one-act bringing together four women in the waiting room of a liposuction clinic.

While waiting for their appointments, they reflect on what brought them to this point — particularly the social pressures for women to conform to a certain image.

The desired body shape is that of the cover girl, the fashion model, and the Barbie doll — young, fit and thin. Failing to match up is a social sin.

Jennifer Bolieu directs, and choreographs the opening scene. As the women page through magazines, shifting and stretching with nervous energy, seemingly random movements become a minor ritualized dance. Eventually, they become a chorus moving in unison and no longer individuals.

Bolieu maintains uniformity throughout the rhymes and monologues that follow, blending the separate women into a common identity. While they have separate stories, they could be interchangeable, and any one of them could pick up another's dialogue in mid-stream without missing a beat.

Self-images and expectations start innocently and as early as a first birthday party, where a toddler is encouraged to squash her cake for a special photograph. The photographs continue until girls reach their awkward (read fat) age. Then, they are placed behind furniture in family groupings.

The obligatory high school prom photo is blended with the first experience of groping sex — always with the expectation that she will behave in a certain way.

Bolieu uses some inventive staging to underscore the dialogue. Childhood games are survivor training for life's real battles. The women get up on their toes to the music of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker." They struggle for seating in a game of musical chairs that parallels a thesis examination.

Eventually, the women give up their play clothes for hospital smocks, which drop from the ceiling attached to a metal bar. There is fatalistic tone as they change out of their street wear, as if they were facing more than the plastic surgeon's knife.

The action shifts to painful monologues, providing a powerful moment to each member of the cast (Kiana Rivera, Christa Eleftherakis, Maia Newell-Large, and Rachel Secretario). Each turns in a shaded, articulated performance that underscores the message.

But there is a curious contradiction in the finale. The women are ready for their procedures and seem to have reached inner peace. They go on to the next step in their programmed behavior with the confidence of heroes facing a firing squad. Rather than rejecting the cosmetic surgery, they accept it without backing down.

One would rather cheer instead for a rebel who chooses honest cellulite.

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