Afraid of the dark?

Fat Men in Skirts

“So, where’s your skirt?”

“So, where’s your skirt?”

Rated 4.0

Those who like dark humor will really enjoy Synergy Stage’s Fat Men in Skirts. Be forewarned: We’re talking really dark humor. Think midnight-in-a-mine-with-your-eyes-closed dark. Simply put, this theater-of-the-absurd is for those who went for Bad Santa instead of Elf this Christmas.

If you’re willing to take the plunge into a surreal world of overbearing mothers, dallying fathers, mental breakdowns, cannibalism, rape and incest, you’ll discover a darkly disturbing but highly entertaining look at one family gone way wrong. East Coast playwright Nicky Silver puts the “fun” in dysfunctional while exploring family dynamics, social taboos, the search for love and lots of wayward affections. At times, Silver seems more interested in shock and fast-paced banter than in deeper meanings, but you can count on never being bored.

The story starts off simply enough. Phyllis Hogan (Christine Nicholson) is the uptight, uptown wife of a Hollywood director. She and her much-maligned son, Bishop (David Campfield), are the only survivors of a plane crash. The dynamics are familiar: a neurotic, domineering mother and a quivering, stuttering son. But when mom orders her son to chop off a dead nun’s arm and cook it up for dinner, it’s the first indication we’re veering from the norm.

The first act depicts the mental, emotional and societal unraveling of the two as they spend seven years alone on the island where they crashed. Interspersed are flashbacks to Phyllis’ life with her husband, Howard (Peter Mohrmann), as well as Howard’s present-day dalliance with his porn-star girlfriend, Pam (Katherine Pappa).

The second act shows us what happens when the two are rescued and have to re-enter normal society. We see how society views their redefined morals and personality reversals. The castaways’ unique code of conduct is contrasted by the slippery moral slope of Howard and his now-pregnant mistress.

Much of this strange outing’s success lies with the insightful direction of Luther Hanson and the cast’s spot-on performances. Most notable is Nicholson’s portrayal of Phyllis. It’s a layered, contrasting journey that demonstrates why she’s one of the most dynamic actresses on the local scene.

Mohrmann gives his usual strong showing as the cocky movie director, seducer and emotionally chicken husband. Campfield starts off a bit clumsy but gains momentum as his character changes from a scared boy to a brute man. And Pappa is a fun addition as “Porn Queen Pam” (and the emotionally distraught prom queen Popo Martin).