The Sty of the Blind Pig
Weedy (seasoned, poised Brenda Thomas), an African-American woman originally from the South, goes to church, claims morality, and hovers too closely around and about her strikingly lovely daughter Alberta (Krystel Lucas). Their apartment, dreary and dim, is condemned. Alberta has recently lost a man for whom she had feeling even if, evidently, at a distance. Now, Alberta is on medication. Doc (Jonathan Earl Peck), who is Weedy's dapper but gambling brother, comes along. Finally, the puzzling Blind Jordan (Eden Marryshow), guitar across his shoulders, stops by looking for someone named Grace and also hoping for something to eat. Grace (never seen) and Jordan, in pursuit of her, have arrived from New Orleans. Immediately, Weedy is skeptical while Alberta finds herself magnetically attracted to this man who now and again sings. J. Hagenbuckle, providing sound design and, according to notes, performing on guitar, is impressive.
Philip Hayes Dean's dialogue, true and specific, helps carry the play which benefits from four ardent, heartfelt performances. Tazewell Thompson's direction assists, but someone must answer for the decision to interrupt the flow with two intermissions even though the entire performance lasts no longer than two hours plus. It would seem possible to substitute a "stretch" for one of the intermissions or simply abridge them.
The play has great integrity and remains both rich and valuable because it depicts time and place with such authenticity. Still, the exposition is lengthy and the script's plot is not its strength. Dean poses questions and (this must be deliberate) leaves his audience wondering. We never quite understand Jordanonly that he came from another life amid drugs and prostitution. Who, however, is this Grace? What about Alberta's medicines? Finally, the civil rights motif could be more fully developed.
All of the performances are strong. Without revealing too much, it is important to single out Krystel Lucas whose Alberta is, during a solo sequence, dazzling and sensual. She reaches a pitch of hysteria. As debonair and occasionally comic Doc, Jonathan Earl Peck, never afraid to grab some whiskey and always ready to play numbers, commands attention with both his presence and resonant voice during all of his moments. Weedy is self-righteous, smothering, and determined to both manipulate and guilt-trip her adult daughter. Eden Marryshow plays the sightless and seeking Blind Jordan by staying within and, if anything, beneath the skin of the character. He is after Grace Waters but never will he really achieve any kind of conventional stability. Brenda Thomas is knowing and disciplined as Weedy.
The Sty of the Blind Pig is a fine and precise character piece which simmers for much of the time. With an occasional fiery scene, it is otherwise engaging if not consistently powerful. The play is a neat fit for TheaterWorks. Donald Eastman's set is period perfect and fuels the realistic theme which Dean furnishes. The emotional struggle which marks much of Alberta and Weedy's time together on stage demands attention and thought.
The Sty of the Blind Pig continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through February 26th. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit theaterworkshartford.org/.
- Fred Sokol