Also see John's review of Singin' in the Rain
Set in the East Village of New York City, Johnny (Jobe Anderson) brings Dave (Angel Perez) back to his sparsely decorated studio apartment for a night of sex. Though the two men have been keeping company, it is clear that Dave is looking for something a bit more emotional rather than just sexual, while Johnny is dodging anything remotely intimate or lasting. In the words of more than one of his ex-conquests: "When he's done - he's done." As they make their way to the bed, Johnny teasingly refers to Dave as his "little pig bottom." A few minutes later, just as they have completed having sex, Dave actually turns into a pig. Johnny is faced with trying to figure out how/why this transformation has happened, and how to change him back. He is at first sure that it is a curse from a Latina Drag Queen (Larry Buzzeo) whom he crossed. He seeks her help as well as that of his stoner friend Kyle (O'Neil Delapenha), who holds a masters degree in Folklore Studies. While they are trying to hammer this all out, Johnny must play caregiver to Dave, who actually can communicate a bit through his oinks. He awakens in Johnny his abandoned desire to be an artist, and Johnny's irritation at having his life interrupted changes into a genuine fondness for Dave over time. Johnny is gradually changed by learning to put the needs of someone else first; and in the true style of a fairy tale, our protagonist is rewarded for learning his lesson at the end of the play.
The set for most of the show is Johnny's apartment decorated appropriately with milk crates and Christmas lights, perfect for a grown man with a good job who is described as not ready to put down roots anywhere. Anderson and Perez are not quite comfortable in the first scene of the play. They seem overly aware of the dialogue and staging, and not genuinely into the kissing moments. Once Perez changes into a pig, he continues his performance on all fours, with knee pads, hooves and a snout. Though his acting is then confined to oinks, facial expressions, and movements, he really does so quite effectively. Commendably, his acting is actually stronger as the pig than when he has full use of his words. It is not until after his scene with Mama Truth that Jobe Anderson seems to grasp his character (Johnny) fully. Once he hits his stride he has some nice, organic moments in the play.
O'Neil Delapenha is very enjoyable to watch as best friend Kyle. Thumbing through his copy of Freudian psychologist Bruno Bettelheim's book "The Uses of Enchantment" in search of an answer to Johnny and Dave's problem, he finds the right off-beat persona, and mixes it all with a slightly stoned and mischievous grin. Larry Buzzeo does more than double duty in this show, going from Latin drag queen Mama Truth to a public health department officer to one of Johnny's exes, and then an elderly journalist moved upstate to start his own small farm. In one quick change he manages to get out of men's clothes and into full drag complete with false eyelashes. He really does an admirable job establishing distinctly different characters through his physical and vocal changes to accompany each costume change.
Playwright Chris Weikel's other works include Secret Identity, Penny Penniworth (produced Off-Broadway), Speaking Parts, Gareth and Lynette, The Way-Weary, Lost Boys, Dansport, and Faithfully Presents. He was a 2008-09 Dramatist Guild Fellow, the 2007 recipient of the Robert Chesley Award for emerging gay playwrights, the 2008 recipient of the Irv Zarkower Award, and a 2011 recipient of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Award.
This production of Pig Tale: An Urban Faerie Story will be appearing through February 2, 2013, at the Empire Stage. Empire Stage is located at 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It is an artist-driven collective that produces new and existing works tailored to the diverse audiences of Ft. Lauderdale. It is their goal to offer theatre artists a supportive environment where they can collaborate, take risks, and develop as writers, actors, designers and producers. Along with co-producers Island City Stage, they explore values, issues and humor relevant to the LGBT and progressive communities. For tickets and information on Empire Stage, visit www.Empirestage.com.
Co-producer Island Stage is a 501(c) 3 non-profit
*Indicates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.