nytheatre.com review by Naomi McDougall Graham
August 14, 2013
A scene from Polly's Waffle
Polly’s Waffle comes to us from Australia following a sold-out run at Perth’s Fringe World 2012 and is written and produced by multi award-winner, Tiffany Barton.
It should be said up front that Polly’s Waffle is not for the faint of heart…nor anyone under the age of 18…possibly 21. By its own description, “Polly’s Waffle is edgy, provocative theatre for those who like their entertainment dark and risqué.” That pretty well hits the nail on the head. To say that it’s raunchy would be an understatement.
This play is actually rather difficult to describe. Perhaps the best clue is that the front row of the audience is covered up with a plastic blanket by the company before the show begins. This is a piece of theater that, figuratively and literally, leaps over the fourth wall and into your lap.
On the most basic level, Polly’s Waffle is about two roommates: Polly, a grotesquely fat and grotesque individual (played by a man), who tries to eat away her pain and Evelyn, a sexualized-to-the-point-of-grotesqueness beauty, who tries to f*** away her pain. The first portion of the play explores the full depths of this pair’s excesses with an indescribable clowning-meets-Laurel-and-Hardy-meets-vaudeville-meets-reality-TV and will have you both cringing in revulsion and laughing out loud. But Barton really gets her hooks into you in the final moments of the piece, which take a turn you won’t see coming and will leave you with a loud thwack, questioning your own pre-judgments.
To say more than that would be to give away too much, so let me suffice it to say that this play is as an experience as much as it is a theater piece and no review will be able to replace your buying a ticket and having that experience for yourself. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have a hard time imagining that anyone, whether or not they “like” it, will be able to walk away from the theater without having been impacted by it.
I think that may be a good definition of theater at its best…
Huge props must be given to the director, James Winter, who directs this piece within an inch of its life and lifts Barton’s words into an utterly insane, gleeful, larger-than-life, theatrically stylized stratosphere. Smart use of a spare set, a clever pre-show sound track (which sets the audience up for all that is about to happen to them), and the razor-like precision of his direction of the actors give this piece the tightness and boldness that it needs.
The two actors must be applauded as well. Ian Bolgia plays Polly with a masterful melding of astounding horror and humanity, all the while living in the cartoon-like height of the play’s style and wearing one of the most incredible fat suits I’ve ever seen. Summer Williams as the oversexed Evelyn commits to an absurdist humor with enormous energy and exactitude while never letting us lose sight of the desperation fueling it all.
This play is both startling and startlingly profound and you would do well to catch it whilst it’s on this continent. It’s refreshing in this day and age to see a piece of theater that really takes advantage of what only live theater can be.
Plus, at a swift 40-minute run-time, it’s easy to slot in between other FringeNYC viewings!