A world premiere by playwright Molly Wagner, THE CALORIE COUNTERS digs into one of today’s most serious topics with compassion and lots of humorous twists. Even though many corners of the world are suffering from malnutrition and even starvation right this moment, obesity has also become a worldwide problem. Author Wagner has taken this hot topic and boiled it down to its essence.
Maggie (Madylin Sweeten Durrie) would definitely be described as a big girl. At the same time, she’s a happy-go-lucky woman who enjoys life to its fullest – and always keeps a package of Oreos nearby. Then disaster strikes. Maggie’s sister (Natasha Renae Potts) is getting married, and she wants Maggie to be her maid of honor – but the bridesmaid’s dress she has chosen can only be ordered to size 12 – and it’s probably been years since Maggie’s dimensions allowed for anything close to that size. But Maggie loves her sister dearly and wants to make her happy on her big day – even if the words “diet” and “calories” are on her no-no list. And so it’s off to Calorie Counters, a weight loss program that, hopefully, will make that dress fit and her sister ecstatic.
THE CALORIE COUNTERS is at once hilarious and poignant and will certainly resonate with all of us who have wanted to shave off a few pounds at some point in our lives. Maggie’s journey navigates issues like body image, personal identity, self-confidence, body shaming, self-esteem – and all the stops in between. As her weight slowly goes down, Maggie begins to wonder if people are treating her differently, if men are noticing her more. Or is it her own paranoid projections? This is pretty heavy stuff – but author Wagner manages to turn it upside down and inside out, all the while chuckling and offering hope and help to anyone who must count calories.
Director Danielle Ozymandias helms with a light but sure hand as the tale ramps up and the pounds go down. The cast, headed by Durrie, does an excellent job of dealing with the many overt and covert problems associated with obesity, weight loss, and all the emotional baggage surrounding those issues. Kudos to Tor Brown, Carlos Gomez, Jr., Matt Lorenzo, Matthew J. Tucker, and Durrie and Potts, the two female leads. Lighting by Tor Brown, sound by Travyz Santos Gatz, and graphics by Amanda Chambers add to the overall warm yet potentially stressful surroundings. One added bonus for the audience: pay attention to the lobby décor. There is a fascinating video about society’s obsession with appearance – and how Photoshop has become a staple in advertising. The walls are also papered with some very intriguing photos and statements. If you’re considering weight loss – or if you tried to lose weight in the past – or if you’re already in a program – THE CALORIE COUNTERS may be for you. It supplies the laughs that are sometimes missing on a diet.
THE CALORIE COUNTERS runs through October 30, 2021, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Loft Ensemble is located at 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA 91602. Admission is by donation (“Donate what you want”). For reservations, call 818-452-3153 or go online.