Watching Nathaniel Boggess' one-man show is like catching up with your old, self-deprecating, endearingly awkward friend at the grocery store, 10 years after high school. He's the boyishly cute guy buying the carrots and green peppers, while you pretend you aren't packing your basket full of potato chips and pork rinds. I Was a Fat Kid . . . I Was a Really Fat Kid is a hilarious but melancholy one-act monologue that reveals Boggess' struggles with weight, family, and self-acceptance. But it's more than a collection of easy fat jokes. With talk of giant hot dogs, a strict stepmother, and an unfortunate, ironic nickname ("Long Dong") that paralyzed his social life, Boggess offers a stark portrait of his '90s adolescence. He stands casually on the Annex's small stage, pulling at his hoodie's drawstrings, describing his youth in the slow-cooked, slow-drawled underbelly of America we Seattleites usually mock. If you watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC last year, you might be familiar with Huntington, West Virginia. It's where Boggess was born and—with high rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes—is considered one of America's fattest cities. Like others there, Boggess struggled with his weight; by age 10, he tipped the scales at 150 pounds. Even he didn't think this was normal. It didn't help that Boggess later worked at Taco Bell and McDonald's, with nearly unlimited access to junk food. Hearing his accounts of dead-end kitchen slavery and plunging self-esteem, we in the audience expect—hope for?—the comic release that never comes. Yet his hour-long show isn't entirely depressing. Boggess balances the painful with plain, ironic humor, and even sometimes addresses the audience directly—like a good friend reassuring others he's actually OK. "It's all right," he says, "It's funny." Although the Portland writer/performer is new to the stage (he started a year and a half ago), Boggess has a gift for balancing pathos and self-mockery. He's relatable, raw, and real.
Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St., 728-0933, annextheatre.org. $5–$10. 8 p.m. Tues.–Wed. Ends Feb. 16.