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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 11.20.08




Some Pigs!

Dorothy Velasco’s play at ACE Annex

by Anna Grace

Opal (Ritta Dreier) rubs her face thoughtfully along a wooden fence plank, sighs, and shuffles her long body to remove an irritating, imaginary fly. She closes her eyes, and for a moment, her character is at rest. Kelly Kern-Craft’s Pearl is a less bitchy swine, but just as fascinating. 

Pearl (Kelly Kern-Craft) and Opal (Ritta Dreier) do the pig thing

Whether they’re fighting over food, asking for more food or napping it off in the pen, Opal and Pearl flat out waddle away with Pigs in Love, Dorothy Velasco’s new play now showing at the Actors Cabaret of Eugene Annex. 

If you question the wisdom of having the thoughts and feelings of a pen of pigs played out on stage, know they are there to balance the actions of the show’s human characters, which are decidedly animalistic. Jane (a sage Nancy West) just wants to write and live peaceably on her farm. Then her old grad school sweetheart (Shevach Lambert) shows up as the next lover of her flamboyant 72-year-old mother Athena (Mary Mason). He wants to stay in her pigpen, observe her pigs and finish his perennially unfinished manuscript about the philosophy of pigs.

Somewhere between Tennessee Williams and Fanny Flagg, this play has all the quirks and humor we’ve come to associate with Velasco’s work. The love quadrangle among Pig Man, Athena, Jane and finally Jane’s 21-year-old daughter McKenzie (Michelle Nordella) is funny but uncomfortable.

That Pig Man could still love his old flame while lusting after her exciting mother isn’t endearing, but it is believable. That a bright, gorgeous college student would throw herself at a middle-aged man wearing pegged jeans and a fanny pack? No.   

The play is full of Velasco’s famous one-liners and cutting jabs. At times the snappy dialogue flies so fast the actors seem to be racing to catch up with it. Not so with Michelle Nordella. She handles the language, plot twists and awkward moments beautifully. As a confused, often angry college student, Nordella walks the line between optimism and anger in a complex, well-crafted character.

Velasco (Miracle in Memphis, Cowgirl Heaven) worked closely with ACE to get this play produced. As Pigs in Love finally hits the boards with veteran director Reva Kaufman and a sturdy cast in the comfortable ACE Annex, Velasco presents her audience with a humorous look at the elegant simplicity of pigs and slovenly frailty of human

beings.

Pigs in Love continues at ACE Annex through Nov. 29. Tix at www.actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.