Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Island City Stage: Pig Tales (3 reviews)

Island City Stage opened its production of Chris Weikel's Pig Tales: An Urban Faerie Story at Empire Stage on January 3, 2013.
Pig Tale is a hilarious, romantic urban faerie tale about Johnny, a pig in and out of bed. His fear of commitment is challenged when late one night, his trick of the evening, Dave, is magically transformed into a real pig. Now faced with having to care for Dave and find a way to turn him back, Johnny becomes the one who truly transforms.
Andy Rogow directs a cast that features Jobe Anderson, Angel Perez, Larry Buzzeo, and O'Neil Delapenha.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The play is unusual, for sure, but it’s also often hilarious. The richest laughs come from Delapenha’s performance as Kyle, a guy whose pot-mellowed big brain earned him a master’s degree in comparative folklore... A New World School of the Arts grad, Delapenha makes Kyle a loyal, cartoonish sidekick, and watching a young talent deliver such a consistently funny character is the greatest pleasure of Pig Tale.

Buzzeo takes Mama Truth to flamboyant yet effective extremes, and the actor further demonstrates his versatility with short turns as Johnny’s ex-boyfriend Josh, an animal control officer and an older journalist-turned-nature preserve operator.

Director Andy Rogow doesn’t get similarly effective results from Anderson or Perez, though Perez in his pig iteration becomes quite poignant as he crawls around Johnny’s apartment wearing a pig nose and front hooves, squealing and looking forlorn.
Much of Weikel’s writing is amusing or insightful, though the plot meanders without clearly resolving a few key points; at times, sound designer David Hart and his spot-on funny musical snippets do more to make the play flow from scene to scene than Weikel does. Though it runs just 90 intermission-free minutes, Pig Tale could use a bit of slimming down. Still, young as it is, Island City is on a roll.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Having seen director Andy Rogow’s ability to make the most of better material such as Luv at Plaza Theatre last month, it seems the blame rests on Chris Weikel’s one-joke script extended to 90 minutes and a weak cast who (with one notable exception) are just passable.

But if the end result isn’t enchanting, Weikel’s one joke is, indeed, funny and undeniably produces enough chortles and belly laughs that the audience doesn’t feel cheated.
In theory, the show is supposed to depict how this really odd couple grows on each other and how Dave eventually brings out Johnny’s capacity for true love, although this is never even hinted at until the last 10 minutes when the foundation should have been laid clearly in the first scene so we could chart Johnny’s growth.

The truth that Mama Truth delivers when she appears on stage is how low-energy the show has been. When actor Larry Buzzeo comes on in full high drag like a deranged Carmen Miranda and sporting an accent that would embarrass Ricky Ricardo, the energy level amps way up thanks to Buzzeo’s courageous all or nothing acting. Stereotype be damned, this is the funniest part of the evening.

Anderson is likable enough, if not especially memorable. But we never feel his character growing. Delpenha, a young New World grad, brings a daffy vibe and bit of wacky energy to his Kyle, but he never strikes you as anything other than a cartoon for other characters to talk to. Perez is not especially convincing when he speaks in the early scenes as the hedonistic denizen of leather bars. Surprisingly, he is much more effective after the transformation with a plastic snout stuck on his face and his lines reduced to grunts. His sad eyes reflect Dave’s pain and confusion, and his body language mirrors that of the cat or dog roaming your living room.
But as a thoroughly satisfying message comedy like a Paul Rudnick or Douglas Carter Beane can deliver, Pig Tale has a long ways to go. Still, if all you’re looking for is some laughs, as the farmer told Babe, “that’ll do, pig.”
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
While the characters in Pig Tale are flag waving members of the LGBT community, they face issues that are universal. Honestly, anyone's sleepover date can become bovine when dawn breaks, can't they?
It takes a while for Anderson to settle into his role as Johnny. His initial scenes with Perez don't seem natural and the dialogue sounds scripted, but as he begins to unravel his character, he injects nuances that reveal his struggle both with his lost dreams... and the attachment that he begins to feel to Dave.
While he has limited dialogue except for a few snorts here and there (the pair work out a communication of one snort for no, two snorts for yes — Pig Latin?), Perez couldn't be more expressive. He also brings new meaning to the phrase "sweating like a pig."
As Kyle, the pot-head, Scooby-Doo T-shirt wearing neighbor, O'Neil Delapenha ends up with a lot of the laughs, mostly because his character is given some of the best lines in the show and is given a few choice situations. Delapenha delivers just about every line with a sly grin. This sideways nod to the audience is never distracting and actually adds another element to the show. When he's on stage, the perspective noticeably changes so that you are almost forced into watching the goings on from his point of view. No matter whose choice this was, whether actor, director or writer, or purely unintentional, it's a fun little sideline.
Larry Buzzeo has his work cut out for him playing four supporting characters including the Latin drag queen Mama Truth, a public health department officer, a former flame of Johnny's, and an NYC journalist who has moved upstate to start his own farm. Buzzeo makes overblown caricatures out of them all, which in this case is entirely suitable.
Rogow's direction keeps the comedy moving along and everything well contained. This is a play that could easily turn into a raucous and ridiculous comical farce if not handled properly, but Rogow has his actors stay on steady ground to keep it real. Well, as real as a fairy tale can be. He has Weikel's script to hogtie, too, which can go from incredibly witty to jokes that end up without a punchline.
As therapeutically successful as a Bettelheim session, Island City Stage's Pig Tale: An Urban Faerie Story comically succeeds at making us address the meaning of our own life and those with whom we spend our waking and sleeping hours, whether animal or human.
Island City Stage's production of Chris Weikel's Pig Tales: An Urban Faerie Story plays at Empire Stage through February 2, 2013.

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