Fatso is a fairytale for our times, sparkling with wit, spiked with humor, exuberantly imaginative, and touching in its bittersweet tenderness. Adapted from the eponymous short story by Etgar Keret, the Cameri production, directed by Shirili Deshe, is a tremendous success, featuring an outstanding creative team – the play was written by Roni Sinai and Etgar Keret, adapted by Michael Gurevitch, with music and musical direction by Yoni Rechter – as well as hilarious performances from a terrific ensemble cast. And it’s a fantastic musical. What more can one wish for? Rarely does the theatre inspire me to rollicking gales of laughter, as did Fatso. I can’t wait to see it again. And again.
The most impossible, incredible thing is life as we live and know it. Keret’s talent is in conveying that feeling in his tightly written stories, lighter than air and yet bearing the weight of eternity. Fatso takes on the task of translating this elusive essence into theatre, and emerges victorious. The story is deceptively simple: a rather nerdy young man Anihu (Udi Rothschild) falls in love with a graceful music teacher Reut (Avigail Harari), who suffers under a curse. Every night she turns into a rumpled, chubby, man (Alon Dahan).
All the elements of the play work together to convey the twists and turns of the plot, beginning with the exquisite minimalism of Svetlana Breger’s set design, that opens into dramatically different worlds. The white boxy building on the corner of Rashi and King George instantly signifies Tel Aviv, while Anihu’s apartment is replete with quirky details – books, Eeyore slippers, a map of Israel, a small cactus, and a dart board, all in line with Udi Rothschild’s portrayal of the slightly naïve, yet very sincerely devoted, and heroically determined Anihu. As the madness mounts, the young couple will consult with Dr. Yochanan (Eli Gornstein), whose escapades of medical daring – perhaps the mildest among them is the removal of an appendix with a screwdriver – are recounted with fervor and a wild gleam in his eyes. The doctor’s abode is appropriately fitted out in exotic elegance, featuring a severed hand, and other body parts preserved in glass jars on the immaculate white shelves.
Fatso brings together an array of characters, from street musician Ijo (Rubi Moskovitch) who observes and comments on the action from the hard-earned wisdom of one who has known suffering, to the ruthless and yet sentimental Herzl (Nadav Asulin), Bruria (Aya Granit Shva) Anihu’s mantra-chanting yet ultimately practical mother, and the incredibly funny antics of Shoham Sheiner as he shines in a series of what would otherwise be thankless roles – as a tree, the famous fountain in Dizengof Square, and more. Avigail Harari is perfect and wonderfully funny as the delicate, soft-spoken Reut, whose alter ego occasionally erupts in vulgar expressions, which she swiftly strives to correct. Alon Dahan is sensational as Morris, the rude, rough, fellow who lives in the night. Dahan delivers the crudest of remarks in a soft, matter-of-fact tone, and leads the hapless Anihu on an unforgettable journey through Tel Aviv’s seamy side. His attempts to rehearse appropriate behavior for meeting Anihu’s mother are hilarious. Yet, deep inside, his heart is full of feeling, and Dahan’s performance conveys Morris’s soft side too, as he says in his inimitable manner, that he is a “Kubeh” full of feeling.
Music is an essential part of the play, thematically and in its artistic expression. The songs flow wonderfully with the storyline, with clever lyrics that have a contemporary feel (rhyming Pango, the parking app, with tango) and Yoni Rechter’s music that has the timeless quality of fairy tales. Fatso is imbued with a meta sense of story, music and theatre, creating an experience with the power of fantasy, the crazy wisdom of laughter, the mystery of love, and the wonder of friendship.
A play by Roni Sinai and Etgar Keret
Based on the story “Fatso” by Etgar Keret
Adapted by Michael Gurevitch
Music and Musical Director: Yoni Rechter; Director: Shirili Deshe; Set: Svetlana Breger; Costumes: Orna Smorgonski; Lighting: Roni Cohen; Movement: Roni Brandstater; Corepetition/Asst. Musical Director: Itamar Gross; Pianist: Itamar Gross/Tamir Leibovich; Vocal Coaching: Haim Paniri; Asst. Director: Nina Openheim; Cast: Anihu – Udi Rothschild, Ijo – Rubi Moskovitch, Morris – Alon Dahan, Reut – Avigail Harari/Neta Plotnik, Yochanan – Eli Gornstein, Bruria – Aya Granit Shva, Herzl – Nadav Assulin, Various characters – Shoham Sheiner, Vagabonds – David Shutzberg, Dor Kelich.