Main Stage West theater’s new season got off to a good start with their production of “Body Awareness.” The title is really a bit of a red herring and is used as a prop to show the differences between the two main characters. Phyllis, played by Lydia Revelos, and Joyce, played by Nancy Prebilich, are a couple, and the play takes place over five days.
Phyllis opens the play by welcoming the audience to day one of Body Awareness week, which she is putting on at the state college where she is a professor. We learn later that Body Awareness Week was once known as Eating Disorders Week, but that the name was changed to give it a more “positive” feel — one of many politically correct sleights of hand that signal one play’s main themes: how language and labels both free and trap us.
Sympathetic to her feminist sensibilities, we want to like Phyllis but her paranoia keeps getting in the way, causing the audience to vacillate between sympathy and laughter.
Joyce meanwhile has her own problems with her son Jared. Prebilich puts in a solid performance trying to keep a lid on Jared, convincingly played by Elijah Pinkham. Jared, who may or may not have Asperger’s, is unable to control his outrageous outbursts, which put the audience on a roller coaster of shock and laughter. Things go seriously downhill when Jared loses his job at McDonalds and the family decides he needs a girlfriend.
The pied piper Frank, convincingly played by Zachary Tendick in his first acting role, arrives, complete with flute, to lead everyone further down the rabbit hole of dysfunction — tempting one of the women to reconsider her sexuality and giving dating advice to Jared.
Frank, whose work as an artist involves taking pictures of naked women of all ages and sizes, comes off as the moral center of the play, mainly because he has the least vacillating sense of self: he is who he is with no apologies.
It was all a lot of fun, and when Jared snuffed out the candles in the last act, the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation for both the play and the players.
Body Awareness continues until Sept. 22. You can get tickets at mainstagewest.com.