Theater: New Play in Fort Lauderdale Looks at Gay Relationships
Island City Stage wowed audiences and critics alike with its debut, The Twentieth Century Way, last summer. Now, Artistic Director Andy Rogow’s company is offering Chris Weikel’s Pig Tale at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage as its sophomore production. But, make no mistakes, although it’s dubbed, “An Urban Faerie Story,” there is nothing sophomoric about the play.
Men are pigs. Straight men, gay men, bi men, whatever — it’s a fact. Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s get down to Weikel’s play and the Island City production, which opened last Saturday.
The tale begins in Johnny’s East Village apartment after a night partying with f*ckbuddy Dave. The boys are a modern incarnation of the Odd Couple, Johnny (Jobe Anderson) is a neurotic, non-committal queen, while “Porn Star Dave” (Angel Perez), as he is known, is a party boy who just might be looking for love from the wrong guy.
Dave would just like to stay the night, but Johnny can’t seem to even make that concession — an admission the two might be in any kind of relationship. An argument of course leads to make-up sex when suddenly Dave is transformed into a pig. This sets into motion a crazy set of events as Johnny struggles to change Dave back into a man.
Rounding out the cast are fresh-faced New World grad O’Neil Delapenha as Johnny’s friend Kyle, a likeable stoner who just happened to complete a master’s degree in folk tales (mostly while high), and Larry Buzzeo, juggling several roles, including the sassy trannie “witch” Mama Truth who is believed at first to have hexed Dave.
Like the much darker fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Weikel threads adult themes throughout his story, addressing fear of commitment, communication and the hard work required for relationships to succeed.
Unfortunately, Weikel is more than a bit self-indulgent with his wordy script. What could or should have been a short — perhaps accompanied by a second one-act “faerie” tale — gets dragged out into a full 90-minute play. Even the comic relief provided by Kyle and Mama Truth doesn’t provide enough distraction to compensate for some serious edits. And, as expected, Johnny eventually comes to realize his fears are what transformed Dave, but that “a-ha” moment the audience is waiting for is conspicuously missing.
Rogow and his actors make the most of the material. The breakout star is Perez in his bovine role. The man deserves hazard pay for crawling around the floor on makeshift hooves and the strain the realistic squealing must have on his voice. But, it’s his expressions that are uncanny, despite the pig snout mask. His eyes are incredibly expressive throughout the entire show, a constant reminder of the man trapped in a pig’s body.
Michael McClain’s set makes good use of Empire Stage’s intimate quarters and some tweaks by David Hart on the sound design should accentuate the production for the remainder of the run.
If you go see Pig Tale, by Chris Weikel
Island City Stage at Empire Stage
1140 Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale
Thursdays to Sundays through Feb. 2
Tickets $30 at 954-678-1496