The Pig, or Vaclav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig
nytheatre.com review by Rachel Merrill Moss
July 1, 2011
With summer finally in full swing and the festival spirit clinging to every breeze, not to mention barbecues on every corner, the sumptuous notion of a festival celebrating roast pig is one that would appeal to most everyone these days (with due apologies to vegetarians). And the product of the Ice Factory Festival and Untitled Theater Company No. 61's fun and festive rendition of Václav Havel's The Pig, now playing at 3LD, is no less appetizing. Or appealing.
With 3LD's expansive theatre space having been transformed into what feels at once like both the inside of a television studio and a circle of picnic benches, the audience is greeted with live music, food vendors, and beer. And even as the lights dim to reveal a beauty queen bouffant-ed journalist and her camera crew, the atmosphere remains lively and communal, happily never moving toward typical theatre-setting territory. This American journalist, clad like a grown-up Alice in what turns out to be quite a Czech Wonderland, finds herself reporting on one man's frustrating tale of trying to find a pig for the annual zabíjačka festival: a day-long fest that takes place in rural Czech villages in which a pig is found and slaughtered, prepared, and eaten to celebrate the gathering of friends and family. But not merely some poor sap is he that tells his tale, but Václav Havel, the famous Czech political dissident and playwright and yes indeed, writer of this story. Yet neither his position in the community nor his political reputation spare him from being led on a wild goose chase for the proper festival pig. On his mission, he encounters all manner of sideways villagers, extended family members and absurdly long pig-bartering contracts, all the while being underscored by two ill-fated lovers histrionically crooning excerpts from the Czech opera, The Bartered Bride, significantly upping the dramatic ante. But rest assured, like any good summer blockbuster, a happy ending lies in store for all.
Or does it? Once the amusing pig hunt tale has come to a close, the journalist discovers that in fact she was meant to be covering more political material all along. At which point she is silenced by the dark-eyed, suit-clad overseer of the whole ordeal, who had heretofore kept mum. Was the whole story merely a distraction from the real issues at hand? Was this an orchestrated act of government officials to keep questioning minds wondering about less inflammatory matters? Before such questions can be over thought, the country Czechs disperse into the night leaving more music and beer to seduce the senses back into a happy calm.
This snappy slip of a piece, clocking in at a mere 65 minutes, is sprightly and joyful. However short the performance, the cast has plenty of time to display their ample talents, all with fine comedic timing and delivery, lovely singing voices and even the occasional instrument. Edward Einhorn's springy and clever translation pairs well with Henry Akona's easygoing direction that gives The Pig an organic delight befitting such a tale.
More event than just performance, The Pig offers all the right elements for a satisfying evening: a little melodrama and a lot of humor with music and savories to boot.