Sometimes, something’s so bad you can’t help but watch. Take any number of reality or competition TV shows, or highlight reels of grotesque sports injuries that should make your stomach turn but instead have you rewinding to watch again in slow motion.
The same appeal may be at work with “Fatboy,” a play making its Arizona premiere this weekend at the Lyceum Theatre on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe.
Written by John Clancy and staged by the ASU School of Theatre and Film MainStage Season in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, it’s not for the faint of heart or easily offended.
“It’s about an archetypical ‘ugly American’ couple who, through gluttony and greed and cheating and lies, gain power, and they abuse that power in really horrid and disgusting ways,” says director Brian Foley.
Fatboy and Fudgie want it all, and anything standing in their way ends up destroyed — or consumed — in a plot heavy with explicit language, sex and violence.
“It’s fast and loud and brash and funny and brazenly scatological and sexual. It’s kind of like the ‘South Park’ movie. It’s taking these very silly cartoony characters and making them do awful things,” says Foley, a student in the ASU School of Theatre and Film Master of Fine Arts in Theatre program.
Aside from its shock value, the play raises the idea that each of us could stand some improvement.
“What we realize very quickly is that it’s very easy to find (similar) opportunities in our own lives and to abuse them. We very quickly see ourselves in Fatboy and Fudgie,” says Foley, who has 20 years of performance background as a clown and teaches clown performance at ASU.
But, he’s not expecting “Fatboy’s” message to change anyone.
“As much as the play points a finger at the audience at times, I’ve been working on it for about a year, and I haven’t really changed my lifestyle. I’m still probably doing things that are hurting the planet. I’m being complacent in the face of injustice just because it’s easier to turn on Netflix. So, I hope people (leave) laughing and feel some resonance that there is a greater responsibility — but I don’t think the message of this play is a revelation, by any means.”
The moral of the story is tempered somewhat, he says, in the frenetic pace of the action and humor on stage.
“If you would let your child watch an uncensored episode of ‘South Park,’ you’d be comfortable here. But we’re saying it’s really not appropriate for anyone, because it really is offensive,” says Foley.
Clancy’s “Fatboy” is an updated, Americanized version of Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi,” an 1896 absurdist play that satirizes power, greed and the propensity of the successful to abuse authority.
It’s on stage through Feb. 9 in Tempe. For showtimes and tickets, call (480) 965-6447 or visit HerbergerInstitute.asu.edu/events.
If you go
What: “Fatboy,” a vulgar play for mature audiences, satirizes the “ugly American.”
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 7-9
Where: Lyceum Theatre on the ASU campus, 901 S. Forest Mall, Tempe. For parking info, visit HerbergerInstitute.asu.edu/events/parking.php
Cost: $8–$16 per person
Information: (480) 965-6447 or HerbergerInstitute.asu.edu/events