Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Pig

l-r Blair Williams, Bruce Dow, Paul Dunn (photo: Jeremy Mimnagh)

Buddies’ Pig Serves Up Nothing but Slops
The only thing butchered in this slaughterhouse is goodwill.
by Christian Baines

Pig has all the ingredients of a yet another quality Buddies production in 2013, including committed, well defined performances and a clever director’s hand. These elements occasionally earn it a good laugh – even the odd twinge of fear. It’s too bad the play itself is a steaming pile of slop.

Imagine for a moment that Eli Roth has just stumbled upon the world of gay BDSM and thought ‘Hey, isn’t this just the coolest shit ever? This’ll shock the kids!’ He then starts waving it around, expecting praise for how cutting edge he is without paying the slightest attention to character or plot development. So it is with the script of Pig. There’s never a glimpse of the motivation driving either the sadists or the masochists in Tim Luscombe’s indecisive and irredeemably anti-erotic tale. 

Pig’s opening quarter hour subjects us to three truly reprehensible characters

As a result, we’re never given a reason to care about them or understand their self-destructive behaviours. Pig just jumps from ‘shock’ to ‘shock’, trotting out ideas that anyone even remotely aware of the BDSM scene would find tired. Car battery? Thanks American Psycho! Ripping the heart out during fisting? Sorry, it’s been done – or at least written about – before. At best, this stuff is quaint. At worst, the whole ‘BDSM as a gateway to murder’ plot shows a complete disrespect for those involved in the scene. This, I find frankly astonishing in a play performed at Buddies.

Pig’s opening quarter hour subjects us to three truly reprehensible characters (and two rather ‘meh’ online personas), but lays none of the groundwork necessary for the audience to willingly follow a sociopath’s journey. When the characters do shift from cruelty to tenderness and back, it feels sudden and completely unearned. Hell, Luscombe even seems aware of this, channelling our thoughts when one character jaws out his playwright boyfriend for this very offence. 

And that’s about as close as we ever come to sharing a character’s emotional ride here. An apparent unwillingness to even get a firm fix on who’s real and who’s a figment of the playwright’s imagination doesn’t help matters either. There are glimmers of hope in the latter half of the first act, particularly as the always reliable Bruce Dow finds an outlet for his more flamboyant side through the play’s only interesting character. It was during this scene I briefly saw flashes of wit and insight into where the relentless pursuit of gay equality has left our uniqueness as a subculture and as individuals.

But only briefly.

Toronto has enjoyed splendid affairs with much of Buddies’ output in 2013 and I look forward to seeing the theatre back at its best. Pig however will be remembered as that dirty, unsatisfying lay we never speak of again and would just as soon forget. 

Oh... and the less said about that unintentional howler of a finale, the better!  

Pig plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until October 6.

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