Pigs don’t fly and they don’t sing, but they do stampede and wreak havoc in Greg Kotis’ often hilarious but extremely gross farce “Pig Farm.” Although it is not a musical (except for the oinks), it is not terribly dissimilar in its high regard for puerile perversity to Kotis’ award-winning “Urinetown.” Under the direction of John Rando the team can be commended for exposing in a riotous manner and with a particular disregard for subtleties yet another aspect of American social malaise and governmental malfeasance. It is to Kotis’ and Rando’s credit that the plight of a rural pig farmer in middle America has been fashioned as a veritable pig sty of comic and horrific incidents. It has been expertly cast with actors who play their quasi-demented roles with uncommon zeal and with apparent relish.
This is certainly the most daringly over-the-top political farce since Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell,” as it fearlessly embraces its outre agenda. This is a play that may be calculated to either make you head for the nearest shower, or stick around and root for characters who are as inclined to wallow in fecal sludge as they are motivated to express their hatred for the government as a kind of mantra. They also find time for hanky-panky and resort to violence when it’s time to defend themselves and what they believe in.
What are the hard-working pig farmers to do when their lives and their livelihood are being controlled, manipulated, and decided by a heartless and intrusive branch of government? It’s a hard life for Tom (John Ellison Conlee); his wife, Tina (Katie Finneran); and their hired hand, Tim (Logan Marshall-Green), as they find themselves hastily preparing for a critical visit from Teddy (Denis O’Hare), an inspector from the Environmental Protection Agency. Big burly Tom has only a short time to supply the inspector with an exact count of his pigs, around 15,000, a number that is strictly regulated and enforced by the government. In a rash move to comply and also clean up the farm, Tom dumps truck loads of fecal sludge into the nearby river.
Notwithstanding the possibility of failing Teddy’s inspection, being fined, and losing the farm for polluting the river, Tom, Tina and Tim (is there a cryptic agenda with the Ts?) are also embroiled with personal conflicts not the least of which is the failure of Tom to bed Tina who desperately wants a baby. Tim, the young studly if dim-witted hired hand is a parolee from the local detention center and not above seduction. His presence and some provocative opportunities provide an excuse for one of the funniest and filthiest (in every sense of the word) sexual encounters you have ever seen.
The action takes place in the dumpy kitchen, where Tom rants about the difficulty of surviving under the agency’s unjust rules and regulations. Conlee’s performance is demonstrative of a force of nature but also that of a humble farmer citizen forced to lash back in frustration. The brunt of his anger is Teddy, a slimy and unsettling presence whose devious machinations and despicable duplicity eventually serves to drive the farce into pure fecal-fueled mayhem. O’Hare gives another award-winning performance, but should also get the Purple Heart for the abuse he sustains. Survival of another kind drives Tina, who constantly threatens to leave her understandably distracted husband unless she gets the baby she has been promised. There is an element of clever cunning in Finneran’s performance, one that gives a particularly funny edge to her lust and her laments.
Logan Marshall-Green is a hoot as the sludge-smeared Tim, the newly empowered object of Tina’s sexual desire. He also becomes the object of Tom’s wrath following an exposed double-cross that leads to a bloody no-holds-barred fight when he attempts to leave the farm. Steve Rankin’s fight choreography is worthy of four snorts. It’s a slop of a course that Rando has to stay, but let it not be said that he doesn’t keep his eye on the sow. Speaking of which, it takes the tragic demise of Ol’ Bess, a sow of distinction, to bring this comedic swill to its rightful conclusion and to its permanent resting place in hog heaven. **
“Pig Farm,” through Sunday, September 3, Roundabout Laura Pels Theater, 111 West 46th Street. $56.25 to $66.25. 212-719-1300