Crashed Diet!

Double threat

The folks over at North Valley Playhouse had better hope that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation doesn't get wind of the offensive gay stereotypes they're promoting in their new, original, so-mean-you-won't believe-it show, Diet! The Musical! For that matter, they'd better hope that anyone with half a brain who's ever tried to shed a few pounds doesn't stumble on this little monstrosity because, while Diet!does not have the ability to entertain, it does posses the power to shock an audience with its unapologetic stupidity.

I was willing to give local husband-and-wife playwrights Kenneth and Susan LaFave the benefit of the doubt, and spent all of Act One looking for something to like in a show that tells us that fat people are okay so long as they can overlook the fact that they're losers because they're overweight. I gave up my campaign early in Act Two when there appeared a character so odious, so repulsively hateful in its depiction of homosexuals, that all bets were off. I was done looking for the silver lining in this pretentious pile of offal and ready to call it what it truly is: crap.

I should have seen it coming. Diet! opens with a song that's sung entirely offstage, leaving its audience to stare at an empty set while a trio of thin, reedy voices go looking for harmony with lyrics like, "I love food/It's so delicious/Food, food, food/It fulfills my wishes." I ended up wishing that the stage had remained bare when Freddie, the most repulsive gay stereotype to mince across a stage in decades, appeared. Dressed in iridescent pink ladies' slacks and a glittery blouse with six inches of lace at the cuffs, Mark Shannon as Freddie pranced his way through a profoundly vile impersonation of what people used to think of as a typical homosexual, all limp wrists and lispy, eye-rolling huffiness. It was a display so disgraceful that I can't tell you what Shannon sang about, although I do recall that it was off-key and performed as if he were an Eric Blore impersonator determined to set the gay rights movement back 50 years.

(And please, spare me your letters about how making fun of fags is okay because you know/are/have slept with a gay person who finds this sort of hate-mongering amusing. It's not, and I'd be just as offended if Freddie were an African-American character who turned up onstage eating a slice of watermelon and calling for his Mammy — and you should be, too.)

What comes before or after this monstrous sequence is less offensive, although no more compassionate. If I didn't expect to find fag-bashing in the LaFaves' little brainchild, I did think I might see a show that offered a vision of women with weight issues as something other than needy, bitter, and food-obsessed. This small-mindedness is forwarded in songs that compare men to chocolate bars ("Who Needs a Man When a Gal's Got Chocolate?"); celebrate chubby-chasing ("Pleasingly Plump"); and another ("Stick To It") in which one big girl sings lovingly to a pastry while another pleads with her boyfriend (who's left her for someone thin) to return her phone calls. In between, there are unfunny scenes in which we're told that fat women are beautiful inside but don't stand a chance of anyone discovering that inner beauty because no one can get past their piggishness to see what's inside.

Shortly after the Freddie sequence, the LaFaves run out of clever clichés and resort to scenes like the one in which a couple romance each other by cramming each other's mouths with pizza and ice cream, and another in which a chubby-chaser collapses after an eating binge and winds up in the hospital, because people who eat entire cheese pizzas for dinner always end up with angioplasties.

North Valley Playhouse is threatening to keep this mean-spirited dreck on its schedule through May 5, but I'm recommending that you stay home and watch TV rather than waste your hard-earned dollars on a tuneless, malevolent musical. To do anything else is to support not only bad theater, but intolerance as well.

 
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16 comments
Steve
Steve

Robrt you perverse little queer, why can't you laugh with the rest of us at a production that mocks stereotypes by flaunting them? I think you are just jealous of the pink pants and wish that Mark would wear them as he "does you."

No, I must take that back ... based upon your style of bashing, one can only assume that you pine for Simon Crowell!

MarkShannon
MarkShannon

Typo Correction to above post

"Ok.......so it WASN'T the intended effect"

MarkShannon
MarkShannon

I want to thank everyone for their support and I would even like to thank Mr. Pela, for what I consider to be high praise. He could have said that Freddie was the same old tired flaming queen that has been done on Will & Grace, The Producers, The Bird Cage, Kids in the Hall, Mad TV, Saturday Night Live, etc etc etc......But he didn't.

With all that "competition" out there and in about 4 minutes of stage time, Mr. Pela deemed my character "so odious, so repulsively hateful in its depiction of homosexuals.....the most repulsive gay stereotype to mince across a stage in decades...a profoundly vile impersonation of what people used to think of as a typical homosexual, all limp wrists and lispy, eye-rolling huffiness. It was a display so disgraceful....determined to set the gay rights movement back 50 years." WOW...to be able to stir that kind of passion and fervor, in less that 4 minutes....and Freddie isn't even my main character, but only 1 of 3.

Ok.......so it was the intended effect, but the whole point of theatre is to have an effect. Indifference is Death to theatre. Mr. Pela, from your words it is evident that you were deeply and passionately moved by my performance as Freddy, raising my performance sooo high about the rest, and although you did not mean it as such, I choose to accept your words at praise, and I am highly honored.

-MarkShannon (Josh, Freddie, Fitness Instructor)

MarkShannon
MarkShannon

While I am flattered by all the attention, I need to point out that I am only 1 person out of a 5 person cast, and it is those other 4 people, who have been over looked, who are doing the bulk of the work in this show.

This show is about two women, played by two very talented ladies: Nicole Lang as Lynne and Andrea Tripodi as Pat; who struggle with the issues of weight, social pressure/acceptance, personal insecurities and self acceptance. Their passionate performances are both funny, touching and occasionally heartbreaking.

Lynne's overamped, overbearing and controlling mother is masterfully played by Laurie Lemley. Marco Valadez gives several comedic performances as Frank, the loveable ex-jock football coach, with an appetite for the pleasingly plump.

A truly amazing set was created by Andrew Hall, using mirrors and a ceiling scrim, which not only creates the illusion of depth, but also creates a different audience view depending on where in the theater you are sitting.

Lighting by Daniel Davisson, Musical Director Wendy Roman and all put together lovingly and tirelessly but Director Jeana Whitaker, and our crew Chris, Tyler and Skye.

Emalie
Emalie

I have been involved in professional theatre for over 20 years and have never read a review as poorly written as the one Mr. Pela has written. I understand not liking a show, but to put your personal feelings into a review is pathetic. I saw "Diet" and enjoyed it immensely! Mr. Pela's rant about a gay steriotypical character takes up 50% of his article. This character is in this play for 3-4 minutes. He calls 1 character a "chubby chaser". If he is so concerned about stereotypes and prejudice, maybe he should be MORE careful with his choice of words and start to worry about who he may offend with his words. Does the general public need to remind him of his job? There usually is mention of actors real names, mention of setting and design, maybe audiences reaction and how many people actually attended a performance. I believe those are things I have always read in a "good critique". Maybe Mr. Pela should go back to "journalism 101" and learn how to write all over again.

Sonny the Cat
Sonny the Cat

What's all this fuss about? "Freddie, the most repulsive gay stereotype to mince across a stage in decades?" Huh? Did I miss something? The review so badly written that first I thought he was referring to an "infamous" cross-dressing real-life person who was especially hired for the one number! It took me a while to figure it out after reading the more intellible reader reviews.

My wife and I were there at sold-out Opening Night. My favorite piece was, I think, the one in question "at the gym." Mark Shannon was absolutely hilarious! "Typical homosexual?" It didn't even occur to me that it was making fun of gays. And I'm not a very liberal-minded feline, either. I was examining this production from a strictly artistic perspective. Was I wrong? Mr. Shannon was the most versatile cast member, having to play multiple roles of contrasting character. The songs were straight-forward, pleasant, and lyrical. Well rehearsed and well done, considering that this was small-time community theatre.

I have known Mr. Ken LaFave as a contemporary classical composer of chamber, choral, and orchestral music. It was interesting to hear just a hint of his complex syncopations that almost had the singers hicupping. Writing such light-hearted music must have been a lot of fun. I'd like to hear more!

Linda
Linda

Unbelievable! This guys is obviously off his rocker. I loved this show, and not that I am the know-all, be-all, but the show I was at got a standing ovation which makes me think that the audience liked it too. This article leaves ME feeling insulted-- is he saying that because we the audience genuinely enjoyed the show that we are all mean, stupid and bigoted?

I thought the show was not only entertaining, but full of great music, very talented actors and singers and a set that was not only unique, but genius! I believe from here on out I will never be able to trust one of Mr. Pela's reviews again. It appears to me that he has no idea what he is talking about! It's unfortunate that ONE person out of however many people were in the audience has so much power and the ability to influence thousands of readers...I'm pretty sure the "others" would beg to differ with what he has to say-- I know I do!

Kathy
Kathy

I think it's interesting that Mr. Pela can tell us exactly what this offensive character is wearing (though he is on stage for less than 10 minutes of a two hour show), but is not privy to the fact that the opening number is not sung offstage as he suggests, but is a recorded track used in lieu of an overture. Also, a lot of focus is placed on this supposed message of "intolerance". Obviously, Mr. Pela did not pay much attention to the message of this piece, only focusing on the negative statements of the characters, prior to them reaching their respective character arcs. Would he say that plays like "The Pillowman" or "The Woodsman" champion child molestation? Probably not. But I guess you never know. Thank you, Mr. Pela, for giving us a great example of what happens when someone uses the power of the media to take something completely out of context.

Jana Cole
Jana Cole

Robert Pela is to Diet! what Simon Cowell (American Idol) was to Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)- Start "eating" crow Mr. Pela!

"Freddie"
"Freddie"

Eric Blore??? The 1930s English film actor who made a career out of playing valets in Fred & Ginger movies??? Hmmmmmm......not sure I get the connection.

Personally, I like to think of myself as the love child of Ethel Merman and Charles Nelson Reilly with two big scoops of Elton John fashion sense.

-"Freddie"

"the other one"
"the other one"

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, the one thing that I especially take issue with in this "review" is the very last part. As a theatre critic, I am especially disappointed that you would recommend that a person sit home and watch TV rather than go out and see a theatre production. So, you didn't like the show for whatever reason. At least be responsible and recommend a different production instead of encouraging a non-theatre-going population to sit at home.

Susan Simpson LaFave
Susan Simpson LaFave

As the playwright and co-lyricist of Diet! The Musical, I do agree with one comment in Mr. Pela�s review: I feel absolutely no need to apologize for presenting humorous stereotypes to address the social prejudices and emotional challenges faced by overweight people in our cruel and superficial body-conscious culture. It�s too bad Mr. Pela evidently lacks both the intellectual capacity and the basic human compassion to recognize that I place my characters in shocking situations to expose the harsh realities faced by folks who don�t fit the mainstream media�s myopic idea of �beautiful,� �desirable,� or �socially acceptable.� Mr. Pela had no way of knowing that I write from my own experience as an obese woman who has battled lifelong eating disorders and at times faced romantic and professional rejection because I wasn�t a perfect size 2. If my words push buttons, they should. The show�s protagonist, Lynne, struggles to acknowledge her inner beauty when her reflection can�t compare with Angelina Jolie�s. Roommate Pat, who is truly obese, faces job discrimination because of her size. And, yes, Pat finally meets a man who truly adores her Rubenesque figure. (So did I.) I found it really sad that Mr. Pela couldn�t find the beauty of my gay character, Fabulous Freddie, Pat�s benevolent Fairy Godmother, who is unabashedly effeminate and truly proud of his sexual orientation. (Does Pela also have problems with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?) One wonders if Pela has worked through his own sexual orientation issues, considering the size of the chip on his shoulder.

Susan Simpson LaFave

Kenneth LaFave
Kenneth LaFave

I was a critic for 20 years before I left the Arizona Republic, and I have never read as incompetent a review as the one by Mr. Robrt Pela of my show, Diet! The Musical. To begin with the most obvious lie (not distortion, LIE), Pela writes:

"In between, there are unfunny scenes in which we're told that fat women are beautiful inside but don't stand a chance of anyone discovering that inner beauty because no one can get past their piggishness to see what's inside."

Pela sets this up as if it is a message of the script, but in fact, it is a sentiment delivered by a character who later is clearly proven WRONG. It is as if he had gleaned the message of "West Side Story" as "hate! hate! hate!" Consider how incompetent this makes him as a critic, and then wonder to yourself why The New Times retains him at all.

Pela says the show is not entertaining, but fails to report that the audience in attendance when he saw the show laughed so hard that some lines got buried, and that it gave our show a standing ovation. When I was a critic, I always made sure that if I disagreed with the response of the audience, I at least noted the audience's opinion. Pela fails to mention any facts that call his viewpoint into question.

Pela also makes the focus of his review a single character in the second act!!!! This is so stupid it doesn't require further comment.

Finally, as evidence of his severe inability to write reviews, he fails to mention who directed the show, and who the actors were other than the one he found offensive. Does the New Times allow its news reporters to mention people and LEAVE OUT THEIR NAMES?

I have heard from others in the theater community that Pela is woefully unlettered and unskilled, and that he lets his private life drive what he writes -- the most vulgar m.o. for a critic. Now I believe it.

- Kenneth LaFave

Jeff Powell
Jeff Powell

The play was so funny at times I was laughing histerically! Someone get this crtic a 50 cents to find a new job! There were no insults on gays, just fun great acting this crtic missed the point of the entire play!

Patricia Powell
Patricia Powell

WOW!LOVED THE PLAY, laughed so hard and could really relate to a lot of the issues, but the message was incredible. This critic is way off!

Rose Dicecco
Rose Dicecco

I loved the play.I have no idea what the heck this critic is referring to - what are this critics credentials!??

Rose

 
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