You know, prior to seeing Martin Benson's production of Pig Farm at South Coast Repertory, I hadn't spent much time thinking about pig shit. Having grown up in the suburbs, most of the shit I've been concerned with has been of the canine variety—pick up after your dogs, people . . . it's your civic duty (pun intended). But here's a play that's just drenched in pig waste. Gloriously sloppily drenched.
Pig Farm is the second in playwright Greg Kotis' run of provocatively titled theater (Urine-town being the first) and South Coast Repertory has really done a fine job with it. The play itself is a nice bit of social satire concerning the realities of modern industrialized farming and its effects on the people directly involved as well as the environment at large, but the messages are subtle enough not to distract from the sheer enjoyment of the story. All four actors appearing in the play are gifted performers with a knack for minimizing hamminess in service to the play's inherent comedy. Especially high marks go to JD Cullum for his portrayal of Teddy, a government agent come to inspect the pig farm. Cullum's characterization was so entertaining, I found myself wishing for a series of prequels detailing Teddy's exploits just to get the chance to watch him strut around stage some more, chewing a toothpick and "accidentally" showing off his gun to anyone he thinks he can impress.
As is typical with SCR productions, the set, wardrobe and sound design were excellent—the farm house with its peeling wallpaper and framed hog portraits looked authentic enough that I imagined the men from the bank might show up any second to repossess the set. And the play does manage the occasional scene of real pathos, such as pig farmer Tom's revelation that he has dumped his most recent batch of sludge onto a couple of skinny dipping lovers who had reminded him of his younger days with his wife. That the excremental byproduct of hog farming has metaphorically and literally coated everything pure with which it has come into contact is the obvious moral, but SCR's production is less about message than entertainment and on that count they have done a very good job.
Pig Farm at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org. Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m. Thru Jan. 28. $20-$60.