Island City Stage made an impressive debut last summer with The Twentieth Century Way, a provocative play about a police scheme to entrap gay men in the early years of the 20th century. The company has shifted gears for its second show, another coproduction with Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, this time jumping into the realm of the comically fantastic.
Chris Weikel’s Pig Tale – An Urban Faerie Story is precisely what its title implies. Two gay men, Johnny (Jobe Anderson) and Dave (Angel Perez), go back to Johnny’s sparsely furnished East Village apartment for yet another nighttime romp. Dave would like more from the relationship — a meal, maybe, or even a sleepover — but Johnny isn’t one for basking in the afterglow. Yet on this particular night, during noisy sex behind a tastefully drawn curtain, something out of a very dark fairy tale happens: Dave is transformed into a pig.
Johnny, who once dreamed of becoming an artist, spends the rest of the play trying to figure out just why his casual boyfriend is now his porcine roommate. He gets an assist from his stoner friend Kyle (O’Neil Delapenha) and the hot-to-trot neighborhood Cuban drag queen Mama Truth (Larry Buzzeo). There’s a happy ending involving two transformations and several lessons learned.
The play is unusual, for sure, but it’s also often hilarious. The richest laughs come from Delapenha’s performance as Kyle, a guy whose pot-mellowed big brain earned him a master’s degree in comparative folklore. Kyle peruses The Uses of Enchantment, psychologist Bruno Bettelheim’s famous analysis of fairy tales, hoping to figure out exactly what happened to Dave and how to reverse the spell. A New World School of the Arts grad, Delapenha makes Kyle a loyal, cartoonish sidekick, and watching a young talent deliver such a consistently funny character is the greatest pleasure of Pig Tale.
Buzzeo takes Mama Truth to flamboyant yet effective extremes, and the actor further demonstrates his versatility with short turns as Johnny’s ex-boyfriend Josh, an animal control officer and an older journalist-turned-nature preserve operator.
Director Andy Rogow doesn’t get similarly effective results from Anderson or Perez, though Perez in his pig iteration becomes quite poignant as he crawls around Johnny’s apartment wearing a pig nose and front hooves, squealing and looking forlorn. The characters’ first hookup seems clichéd and shallow, their final one a sweet relief, but the actors play the relationship as though they were in a far wilder play than the fanciful Pig Tale.
Much of Weikel’s writing is amusing or insightful, though the plot meanders without clearly resolving a few key points; at times, sound designer David Hart and his spot-on funny musical snippets do more to make the play flow from scene to scene than Weikel does. Though it runs just 90 intermission-free minutes, Pig Tale could use a bit of slimming down. Still, young as it is, Island City is on a roll.