Sunday, May 23, 2010

"The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

It's a simple story of dialectical revenge, with a manifesto, a set of handcuffs and a pistol. Two men vie for one woman, but actually the woman doesn't want either one of them. She wants what everybody wants: freedom. You'd want that too if you spent your time in a smelly motel next to the pig slaughterhouse.

William Bivins's "The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry," running in the Sandbox Series on SF Playhouse's second stage, is exactly the kind of play the Playhouse does best: wacky story-with-great acting. Something weird always ends up on the floor.

In this case it's part of Charles's face. Motel operator Assy (Chad Deverman), though a pacifist (and possibly a vegetarian), bites it off of Charles (Keith Burkland) during a mano-a-mano fight that Charles has been itching for. Since the fight takes place at the Lazy Eight Motel next to the hog butchery that Charles owns and Assy covets, the chunk of face on the floor seems to take on a pulsating life of its own.

(Director Bill English says it is actually a small piece of lasagna.)

Lola (Madeline H.D. Brown) is married to Charles, but Charles has made some questionable investments and is about to lose everything, and that will surely include Lola. Assy, whose manifesto "The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry" will remind everyone in the audience why they dropped out of graduate school, intends to acquire all of Charles's possessions and do good for humanity. Har hardy har har har.

"Apotheosis" is spicy. It's chewy with a lot of bite. It sticks to your ribs. There are many belly laughs. This reviewer is licking his chops to see where the show goes next.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry" Three Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. All three actors plus director English earn one star each for their performances. They do justice to terrific lines like Assy to Charles:

Assy: "Well, you and I got off on the wrong foot."

Charles: "F___ing a man's wife will tend to do that."

The BANGLE of PRAISE is for the only cocktail served in the motel's, uh, bar. The drink is called a Pissed Off Son of a Bitch. When Assy asks us if we want a drink he says "Do you feel like a Pissed Off Son of a Bitch?"

Act Two is still a little squirrely -- not too long, just less focused than Act One. But Deverman, Brown and Burkland are never less than stellar.

"The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry"
San Francisco Playhouse, Sandbox Theatre
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through June 12

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