The plot centers around pig farmer Tom (John Ellison Conlee) and his wife Tina (Katie Finneran), whose troubled marriage is near the breaking point. She desperately wants a baby, while he's more concerned with the imminent arrival of an Environmental Protection Agency inspector. Tina hooks up with the couple's young hired hand Tim (Logan Marshall-Green), who's there as part of a Juvenile Detention Center work release program. When gun-toting EPA Inspector Teddy (Denis O'Hare) arrives, things become even more complicated.
Kotis is in dire need of a dramaturg to help him edit down and clarify this unwieldly play. The first thing that should go is the sheer number of repetitive jokes, most of which were only mildly amusing the first three times and grow exceedingly tedious by the fourteenth or so iteration. As was the case with Urinetown, for which he won the Tony Award, Kotis plays around with a variety of larger-than-life archetypes. Here, we have a Clifford Odets type of working class hero in a Sam Shepardesque take on the American heartland. Oddly enough, the author also takes aim at horror movie conventions. The parody provokes a few chuckles, but it lacks the satiric edge and keen cultural commentary that made Urinetown sparkle.
The production reunites Kotis with his Urinetown director John Rando, who should have been able to help the playwright shape the work into something worth watching. Rando's staging is certainly stylish: the action is quickly paced and features some spot-on fight choreography by Steve Rankin. Additionally, the performances the director draws out of his top-notch cast are full of overblown emotion that is at once heartfelt and comically absurd.
In fact, the play's entertainment value rests largely on the actors' shoulders as they commit whole-heartedly to the farcical goings-on. Conlee's deadpan delivery is almost good enough to make a monologue about dumping sludge on a skinny-dipping couple work. Finneran practically seethes with pent-up rage and desire that she unleashes to often hilarious effect. Marshall-Green endows his purposely clichéd lines with just the right combination of swagger and sincerity. O'Hare is manic and unpredictable, yet not even he can perform miracles with an inane script that just gets worse and worse as the show stumbles towards its conclusion.
Set designer Scott Pask, costume designer Gregory Gale, and lighting designer Brian MacDevitt -- all of whom are veterans of Urinetown -- do good work here. The same can be said of John Gromada, whose original music and sound design are especially evocative. (He provides a variety of pig snorts to help set the mood.) But all of this talent is not enough to save Pig Farm, which, in the end, is a real stinker.
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