Heavy on the Ham

The cast and crew of Untitled Theatre Company #61 have gone to great lengths to create a festive, Czech-culture infused atmosphere around their production of The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig. Upon entering the space at the 3-Legged Dog Art & Technology Center, the first thing to greet audience members is a bar serving Czech Pilsner-Urquell beer as the scent of delicious Langos wraps by Brooklyn eatery Korzo wafts through the air. A traditionally-dressed maiden weaves among the spectators peddling fresh pretzels as the New York-based Cabaret Metropol sets the tone with their pre-show music. Indeed, music proves to be the central element to this production of The Pig, a play that was originally written by Václav Havel and Vladimír Morávek. While this production certainly succeeds in showcasing Czech traditions and the vocal talents of the cast, its ultimate downfall is that Havel's political message gets lost in the noise — buried beneath a heavily-produced evening of food, drink, elaborate technology, and hammed-up song and dance.

Written in 2010, The Pig is Havel's only work in which the playwright himself appears on stage as one of the characters. As a playwright, dissident, revolutionary, and eventual president of Czechoslovakia, many of Havel's plays conceal acrid critiques of the Communism party. While Edward Einhorn's English adaptation of The Pig seeks to make Havel's play accessible to an American audience, it feels like too much has been lost in translation. This adaptation follows Havel (Robert Honeywell) as he tries to obtain a pig for a zabíjačkais (a rural Czech tradition in which a pig is slaughtered and eaten as part of a feast) for a group of dissident friends. Havel's quest is narrated through interviews with a ditzy American news reporter (Katherine Boynton), footage of which is live-fed through a "news" camera and projected on screens surrounding the audience. The camerawork and technology is impressive, thanks to the brainpower and resources of 3-Legged Dog, who specialize in digital technologies for performance. There is also an array of projected images accompanying the show, and while these projections are visually interesting — evoking things like setting, weather, history, or emotionally evocative images — one wonders what this technological element actually adds to the production.

As if this wasn't enough for an audience to handle, Havel's journey and his interviews with the journalist are further peppered with a sequence of cabarets from the famous Czech operetta, Bedřich Smetana's The Bartered Bride. While the musical talent and voices of the cast are impressive and well-trained, it is unclear why the production takes the musical subplot of The Bartered Bride so far as to obstruct (aurally and thematically) the play's deeper meaning.  

In a relatively small performance space, the over-the-top characterizations, cheesy gags, and overdone facial expressions in this production read way too large for a small venue. While the overdone stylization evades subtlety, it is also not sharp enough to be parody. Overall, the stylistic choices guided by director Henry Akona do the talented cast a disservice. 

The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig, is playing at the 3LD Art & Technology Center (80 Greenwich St.) until March 29. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Tickets including dinner are $45 and $20 without dinner. Patrons who wish to order dinner must book 24 hours in advance. For tickets, call Ovationtix at 866-811-4111 or visit www.3ldnyc.org. 

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