Theater Review – Three Little PigsPosted February 24th, 2015 by Sean Williams
I have to admit, it’s a powerful and charming concept. The director decided to use non-actors, people who had nothing to do with the theater at all, and stage the thing in a found space (in this case, a preschool in Queens). Once she had gone that far she went even farther, to her credit, and used 14 *actual four year olds* to stage the show.
But while it’s a charming idea, it didn’t quite work. First of all, there was no consideration for the fact that a show like this would almost certainly sell out, so there was very little room for the audience. I had to actually stand at the back. Secondly, there was no announcement about cell phones or recording, so virtually every single person had their phone out, making a video of the performance. The one saving grace is that they seemed to reach the non-theater audience that we’re always trying to find – very young, very racially diverse (many seemed to speak English as a second language) and deeply, deeply invested in the program. If the off-Broadway community could reach this audience, we would have nothing to worry about.
Apparently, from what I gathered before-hand, the cast was divided up and given theatrical assignments almost at random. Again, a powerful idea, as if the art of theater is really the art of a communal artistic statement made whole by the co-joining of disparate and often random voices. Overall, the idea worked without any of the cast really failing at their assignments.
Well… except perhaps the playwrights. I don’t want to give any spoilers in case there are any out there who *haven’t* read anything about the production and don’t know the source material, but there are a series of Jungian archetypes representing Sloth, Avarice, Charity and Wrath as embodied by three pigs and a wolf. It’s no surprise that pigs are known as “little” and the wolf is both “big” and “bad”, as it’s really the central struggle between Wrath and the other three that forms the spine of the book.
But it gets muddied in this production. There are various salesmen, selling straw and sticks, there are people who tend the fire in the brick house and there was not one but *two* narrators. I suppose the point could be to demonstrate how desperate theater people are for attention, how needy and how important it is to be actually *on stage*. The problem was, even with the tag team of narrators pushing the action, the piece still dragged.
And you could tell that different audience members were more invested in some characters than others. Pulling out their phones to record or photograph only specific characters and then largely sitting mute for the rest. It’s a testimony to the commitment of the director that everyone in the audience seemed to be transported, even when their favorite characters weren’t featured.
Honestly, I found myself suffering from the same problem. There was a young woman at the back – I suppose a girl, actually, as she is four years old – who had my attention the entire time. From what I understand she was in charge of the costumes (which could explain why almost every character was wearing pink) but that didn’t stop her from jumping up and down, smiling and making faces, and almost constantly waving at… well, at *me*, it seemed.
Although I know that the very best actors make you feel like you’re the center of their attention, I couldn’t help but be swept away by this girl’s enthusiasm and obvious joy that I was there, watching the show. And while I hate to dwell too much on appearances, especially with actresses just starting, I have to say – I was utterly captivated by her beauty. There was something about looking at her face, her simple plain joy at being with her friends, being with the audience and particularly knowing that I was there, that made me feel not just that I was in the perfect place at the perfect time in my life, but that it’s entirely possible that the world itself might be improved by the existence of this perfect little person…
That being said, most of the play was deeply boring. And the fact that I had to stand in the back while every single audience member held their phones (and in some cases *actual iPads*) in front of my face was incredibly frustrating. Once the piece was over, the cast mingled with the audience, doling out high-fives and hugs. However, I wasn’t surprised when one of the people there, a dark haired woman who seemed to be deeply invested in a dark haired girl that looked almost exactly like her, said, “It was *cute*?… but it wasn’t *the cutest*”
Unfortunately, this review is coming out just after the run ended. And I’m not sure I can recommend the production for anyone, unless you’re a fan of basically *any* kind of theater. But as I was leaving, I noticed a face in the window, that perfect little blonde girl, still smiling at me and I may be wrong but just before she went back to the dressing room with the rest of the cast, I saw her blow me a kiss. And suddenly, it was the greatest piece of theater I’ve ever seen.