Review: Weighing in on ‘Hands Across Veronica’

 Kirstin Quinn as Aubrey, and Shelli Pentimall Bookler as Veronica in Walking Fish Theatre's

Kirstin Quinn as Aubrey, and Shelli Pentimall Bookler as Veronica in Walking Fish Theatre's "Hands Across Veronica" (Photo courtesy of Johanna Austin)

The fuzzy-brained comedy “Hands Across Veronica,” at Walking Fish Theatre in Kensington, is supposed to make us think in some way about being overweight. But I’m not sure what the message is here.

Too bad, because obesity is a national health danger that shows no signs of abating, and even a played-for-laffs comedy that’s clearly trying to say something about it should say something, well, clearly.

“Hands Across Veronica” does have lots to say, but some of it is either contradictory or not believable. Plus, the motivations of some characters are missing entirely.

Veronica (a solid turn by Shelli Pentimall Bookler) is not obese, and her best bud, Aubrey (Kirsten Quinn), is even thinner. Yet they’re obsessed about maintaining their weight or losing some more. They work out constantly and eat greens, but little else.

They’re joined in work-out sessions by three ample women (Shelvy Paredes, Zarah Ivins and Meryl Lynn Brown) who celebrate their weight even as Veronica and Aubrey fight off the thought of an additional ounce – the first hint that Philadelphia playwright Gin Hobbs hasn’t thought out the play’s core. What’s the point of this contradiction?

Aubrey’s lanky live-in boyfriend (Daniel Tobin), who eats what he pleases, is thoroughly resentful of such extreme dieting – he never tells us why — and if it’s the key element in the growing rift between him and his gal, we never know for what reason.

So I was in the dark while watching “Hands Across Veronica” at Walking Fish Theatre, and there I remain long after the lights have gone up. The co-production by Walking Fish’s resident B. Someday company and Naked Feet Productions is staged by Naked Feet’s artistic leader, Hannah Tsapatoris MacLeod – she moves it along nicely, but anyone who expects her to put these characters in focus is asking her to have super-human intellectual powers.

“Hands Across Veronica” is a mix of songs, dialogues and an occasional monologue delivered directly to the audience, which changes the pace abruptly each time. When the show gets serious, it exposes its flaws of focus and rings false. But when the cast is singing, generally at exercise class, the scenes are nicely staged and good fun. The play’s dialogue, too, is often funny. Given the loose way “Hands Across Veronica” hangs together, though, it’s more of a quick-hit skit than the two-act play it’s framed to be.

 

 

“Hands Across Veronica,” a co-production of Naked Feet Productions and B. Someday, runs through Nov. 30 at Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave. www.walkingfishtheatre.com.

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