I wanted to see this intriguing, comic avant-garde opera by David Chesky again. I wanted to revisit The Pig, The Farmer and The Artist to see if my original impression was still valid after seeing the original production in October 2009 at the very intimate Gene Frankel Theatre.
The Pig, The Farmer and The Artist is not a fluke. It is still very much what I thought it was, if not better, despite a couple of changes.
It is now at La Mama as part of Fringe Fest NYC – a much larger space that enables the show to breathe. There’s a new Pig (Ryan Scott Lathan) who sings the role now. It had been previously spoken. And a new member of the Greek Trio (Steven Uliana).
Other than these minor adjustments my original review still stands of this artful satire of the art world which is like falling down the famous rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland and finding a cast of zany characters who sing majestically. Be brave, think outside the box.
Walking through the doors of the Gene Frankel Theatre at 24 Bond Street to see The Pig, The Farmer and The Artist (Music/Book/Lyrics by David Chesky) is a bit like falling down the famous rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland where when you hit bottom you come across an array of zany characters telling you their story. With a bit of Fellini thrown in for good measure. It is an operatic satire about sex, music and art.
Yes, that’s right. An opera. In reality it’s more a “singspiel” as the very well endowed Pig (Tom Blunt) speaks rather than sings his part. It’s amazing that he is not completely upstaged by his endowment. Of garden hose length that he twists around his neck and plays jump rope with. It’s long enough for Double Dutch. Be that as it may the other actors are all sensational operatic singers – for real.
They are led by conductor Anthony Aibel accompanied by his orchestra of nine (including a harp, clarinet and flute). The music is avant-garde modern to my ears; with a bit of old time musical pizzazz to help the ears of the uninitiated. Quite original. The production is very funny and never boring. Director A. Scott Parry has done a masterful job of keeping the ball rolling with clever staging and delightfully clever costumes.
Very successful greedy and horny Farmer Jones (bass-baritone Cory Clines) goes to market to sell his produce and discovers The Pig – becomes smitten and buys him along with Shirley, the Cow (mezzo) a statuesque Wendy Busby – a former hooker from Amsterdam and her husband Harvey, the three legged Bull (tenor – James N. Kryshak) a transvestite, parading around in a pink tutu. Next to his big boned bovine he appears more like a bullette than a bull. All the more fun. Thrown into the deal in the artist (tenor – Christopher Preston Thompson) – whose paintings don’t sell – much to the annoyance of Farmer Jones.
The public doesn’t want something new. Something challenging and intelligent. They want or rather what sells is the same old schlock, the public preferring safe and sound over something daring and different. For example this operatic satire.
In order to escape the wrath of Farmer Jones and being slaughtered The Cow and The Bull escape to New York City and become rich selling the artist’s drop cloths as art. Pig soon follows and they… well it’s better to see what happens.
In a trio of pants roles, soprano Melanie Long gets to satirize a farm hand, an art critic and art dealer with aplomb. Rounding out the cast are the superb Greek Trio: Soprano: Ami Vice, Mezzo: Megan Marino and Baritone: Michael Dezort called on to portray everything form goats and chickens to West Village gays, East Village punks, high society dilettantes and the omnipresent paparazzi. What a treat to watch them in action as they skewer opera, the art world, George Bush, sex, and everything in between.
The projected super titles above the stage are hysterical and posted by the computer Hal (MacBook2.1) who had to take on this job to pay his rent in the Big Apple.
They are all great singers and consummate actors. Last night I was even dreaming about them all. Now what would a therapist have to say about that I wonder?