Filler up by Deb Filler and Lowry Marshall, directed by Molly Thom, with Filler. Presented by Smouldering Masterpiece at Artword (75 Portland). Runs to October 13, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 7 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 3 pm. $20-$30. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Deb Filler has a storytelling feast she wants to serve her audience. But not all the courses in Filler Up satisfy and too many times you want a more carefully simmered concoction.Dealing with the child of war survivors who realizes that she herself is a survivor -- of her family as well as life's oddball turns -- the piece centres around fixations, most notably on food. Filler's character bakes a challah, a traditional Jewish egg bread, while she recounts the history of her baker father, who brought home all the leftovers and then complained when his family put on too much weight.
The first half's comedy is predictable and often wan -- who still tries to get a laugh from the similarity between lesbian and thespian? -- but the second touches on vital family tensions and reconciliations that could be further explored. Playing dozens of characters, Filler offers sketches rather than portraits, though some of them -- like basso-voiced Aunt Vippy and the rabbi who believes potatoes are an important part of Jewish history -- amuse.
Much of the comic material has been mined before, and while Filler's an engaging performer who pleases her audience, the work could use more edge. Still, the challah shared with the audience at the end is delicious.