Pretty Faces at Actors Cabaret
by Anna Grace
With those confident, competitive, glamorous women strutting the catwalk in evening gowns, the drama of a beauty pageant is etched deep in the American psyche. Pretty Faces works the time-honored theme with one tweak: These women are big.
Examining self-worth and self-loathing in five rubenesque women, Robert W. Campbells script is half creative genius, half cliché. A Eugene native now residing in New York, Campbell worked with the masterminds of Actors Cabaret, originally writing the play for women he preformed with in Eugene. H.H. Prince Mario-Max zu Schaumburg-Lippe teams up with Director Joe Zingo for the shows revival. The German prince is in town to play the male lead before he takes it home for a staging in Germany.
This production feels like a warm up. The female leads are gorgeously ample in size and voice, but could have used an extra two weeks of rehearsal. The show is spotty, and overall there is an air of hesitation. Augmenting the ladies are Mark VanBeever (adorable Cater) and Schaumburg-Lippe, appropriately cast as comely might-be rogue.
Despite its rough edges, there are a few compelling reasons to see this show. First off, Michelle Sellers (Monique) impassioned voice and strong connection with her audience are stunning. Even if she is a little slim for the role, she sings "Woman that I Am” with heart-moving conviction.
Then theres Prince Mario-Max. Hes royal, cute and charmingly goofy. For those young women still nursing heartache over the recent nuptials of Prince William, heres a second chance. Go get •em.
Finally, it deals with an important issue: Does a womans weight affect how attractive she is? Pretty Faces is written by a man and directed by a man. The message from these men is loud and clear: You may be fat, but you're totally hot! Still, its a beauty contest, a competition among women obsessed with their looks. Lip service is given to the camaraderie of the women, but songs like "I Need It” belie this message. A plus-sized Barbie doll would be a step forward, but its still a Barbie doll.
A long time leader in the BBW (Big Beautiful Women) community, actor Chelyce Chambers (Deloris Jackson) says she sees the show as an important commentary. "Beauty is something you find in yourself,” Chambers says. "For people to see us as beautiful, we must first see it ourselves,” adding that its important "keep putting things like (Pretty Faces) out there” because an ample figure should be seen as simply one among many ways to be sexy.
Pretty Faces plays at Actors Cabaret of Eugene though May 15.