Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Civilization (all you can eat)

Also see Susan's review of Genesis Reboot

Sarah Marshall
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company focuses on plays that address the most important and prickly issues of society, and its current world premiere production of Civilization (all you can eat) fits that description perfectly. Playwright Jason Grote has created a darkly humorous look at survival in an economically precarious time—and the most fascinating character is a sentient pig.

The saga of Big Hog (Sarah Marshall) is a microcosm for the ruthlessness Grote sees in an era when people disconnect from each other and strive for success at the price of their own self-respect. While the other pigs in the barn have no understanding of the future and go unquestioningly to their deaths, Big Hog outsmarts the slaughterhouse workers and heads out to seek personal fulfillment.

The people in Big Hog's world aren't especially secure in themselves. A few examples: Mike (Sean Meehan) left his position as a mathematics professor to become a management consultant, attempting to channel the principles of chaos theory into the business world; David (Daniel Escobar), a Latino actor, stars in a television commercial he finds racially demeaning—but he realizes that sometimes money must take precedence over dignity; and Jade (Casie Platt) hates her job in retail and wonders if acting in online porn might be a better bet. The time is September 2008, just before the full impact of the financial crisis and in the midst of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain.

The characters are exaggerations, but director Howard Shalwitz has worked to bring out the substance behind the fa├žades. Marshall has put a lot of thought into her magnetic performance: the hunched posture (she spends most of the play in a padded suit, walking on her hands and knees) and the raspy voice, the sharply focused eyes and the single-minded determination make a powerful impression. Other standouts are Meehan, who conveys anxiety so clearly that the audience can see the flop sweat, and Jenna Sokolowski as an aspiring actress whose empathy for those around her borders on the scary.

The major element of Daniel Ettinger's scenic design is the weatherbeaten outside wall of the barn where Big Hog lives, but the actors maintain the pace of the scenes by bringing their furnishings onstage and off. (Diners in a restaurant quietly exit by propelling their rolling chairs, and one actor drags a sofa with a rope.)

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Civilization (all you can eat)
February 13th - March 11th
By Jason Grote
Big Hog: Sarah Marshall
Carol: Naomi Jacobson
David: Daniel Escobar
Jade: Casie Platt
Karen: Jenna Sokolowski
Mike: Sean Meehan
Zoe: Tia James
Veterinarian: JaBen Early
George Washington: Alice Gibson
Directed by Howard Shalwitz
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or

Photo: Stan Barouh

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