Monday, July 24, 2006

Pig Farm

At one point in Pig Farm, the new play written by Greg Kotis, directed by John Rando (who previously collaborated on the hit musical Urinetown) and presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company, Tom (played by John Ellison Conlee), the owner of the titular pig farm, talks about having to dump a truckload of "fecal sludge" into the Patomac. It was then that I realized, after seeing both Urinetown, a musical about a town where it's no longer free to pee, and Pig Farm, a play where the protagonist has to secretly remove fecal sludge from his property, that neither Mr. Kotis nor Mr. Rando are above the scatological.

See, I dig good jokes about bodily functions. One could say I'm a connoisseur. So to me, it's a shame that the scatological humor trend never quite picked up in the Off- theatre world in the way it has in the field of cinema and therefore a relief to see it in Mr. Kotis's new play.

In all seriousness though, Pig Farm is a pretty funny show.

Aside from talking about fecal sludge, Pig Farm is about Tom (Mr. Conlee), an overworked pig farmer who ignores his wife Tina's (Katie Finneran) desire to have a baby and abuses his hired hand Tim (Logan Marshall-Green), a 17 year-old boy who works on the farm as a condition of his release from juvie hall. Tom, Tim and Tina are preparing for the arrival of Teddy (Denis O'Hare), an armed E.P.A. agent (hey, working for the E.P.A. is a dangerous job) whose job it is to get an official pig count for the farm.

There's some stuff about Tina and Tim having an affair and Teddy wanting a piece of Tina and Tim trying to steal some pigs and Tina trying to get Tom's attention and Tom trying to bribe Teddy and...okay, you get the idea. Zany antics ensue.

Although some of the humor was of the "hit or miss" variety, there were enough genuine belly laugh-inducing scenes throughout to make the show enjoyable. My personal favorite part of the play was Mr. O'Hare's role as Teddy, the armed E.P.A. agent. Maybe it's just me, but going from a "no nonsense" government agent to a spastic lunatic every few minutes, Mr. O'Hare as Teddy made me laugh without fail.

Many authors often use comedy as a means for social or political commentary. After seeing both Urinetown and Pig Farm, it appears as though Mr. Kotis is doing the opposite: he's using social-political commentary as a means for comedy. In other words, his plays appear to be making some statement (or rather, Statement), but ultimately their goal is to make the audience laugh.

This is what I couldn't understand about Charles Isherwood's review of Pig Farm in his review for the New York Times. In it, he wrote:

"Tom's simmering resentment of the federal government clues us in to Mr. Kotis's larger aim here. 'Pig Farm' wants to poke satiric fun at the dubious excesses of the United States government and what he sees as the sluggish-minded, fat-bellied populace who elected it."


"Larger aim?"

What the hell is this guy talking about?

Pig Farm isn't trying to take any "larger aim," beyond making the audience laugh. There is no substantive Statement About The State of The American Farmer or About The Federal Government's Oppressive Stance Against Blah Blah Blah, which is what makes the show so appealing. From my viewpoint, Mr. Kotis and Mr. Rando are making fun of The Big Statement (or at the very least, using the convention of The Big Statement as a way to have fun).

And Pig Farm is fun, despite Mr. Isherwood's snide (and frankly bizarre) assessment. The cast and crew just go with Mr. Kotis's frenetic script and make no apologies.

Then again, this is coming from a guy who digs plays that talk about fecal sludge.

Fryin' up the bacon,

James "Theatre Piggy" Comtois

Ps. The Roundabout is offering 35% off tickets to Pig Farm, from now through September 3rd. Those interested should call (212) 719-1300 or visit the company's Web site. Use code PFINTE. The offer is subject to availability and can't be combined with any other offer.

Pps. On an unrelated note, this is my 100th post on Jamespeak. Fweeee!

Ppps. To read what other bloggers thought/felt about the show, click on their names below to read their assessments.

Mark Armstrong

Isaac Butler

Matthew Freeman

Ian Hill

Joshua James

Dan Trujillo


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