Play uses humor to deal with male physical insecurities

BY MARIE BERNARD
Daily Arts Writer
Published September 27, 2001

Self-image and weight-loss, in many artistic forums, has remained a woman"s domain. Rarely are we presented with a man"s take on the crippling affect of a poor self-image, and the subsequent power that can be wrought from changing one"s exterior. And, even more rarely, are we told a story like this in such a candid and inventive manner as LSA junior David Roth does in "Chipslips," a play featured this weekend in the Arena Theater, produced in collaboration with Basement Arts.

Paul Wong
Cast of Chipslips looks delicious.<br><br>DAVID KATZ/Daily

"Senior year of high school, I lost 70 pounds," Roth said. "It changed my life and I felt there was a moral and dramatic story in that."

Roth"s sense of humor, however, led him away from telling this story straight. The result is the child-like land that the play takes place in a world in which everyone"s most important characteristic is displayed prominently on the outside of their bodies. Chip, the lead character, is covered in potato chips. The play chronicles Chip"s journey to discover why he has been branded in this way, and what he can do to change it. "Anybody who has ever wanted to change themselves or feels that they are defined by a single feature can relate with Chip," Roth said.

The play had its premiere in the Festival of New Works this summer. "After sitting through the first night and getting feedback, having to watch it again the second night with all its mistakes and weaknesses was almost unbearable," said Roth, who has also worked for the Daily.

"Chipslips" has been through significant revisions since that first performance. The playwright wanted to take the focus off of his own story and towards a full realization of every character involved. Primarily, Roth realized that the concept would only survive if he devoted the play to becoming a full-blown comedy.

Roth worked with the support of his roommate and close friend, Mitch Kiven, on every draft. For this production, Kiven has taken the director"s position. Together, they have created a show that borders on the surreal: A playful modern fable. It was Roth"s first venture into the theater he had never seriously acted, directed or written for the stage prior to this piece.

He has enjoyed making this a collaborative project, both with Kiven and with input from his cast. "After spending so much time on the script, it"s funny to look back at it now and remember how it was once my story. Now, it"s really not," said Roth.

"This play is about accessibility," Roth said. "Since it"s set in such a silly, metaphorical world, we want to get across the play"s cartoonish and purely happy theme. That"s not to say there"s not a clear message in the play, but you can figure that out for yourself."