James Ryan Gobuty
One can’t help but start the review of this show with a disclaimer:
The Buddies in Bad Times production of PIG, by Tim Luscombe, is not for the fainthearted. Having said that, applause must be given to the Buddies team for demonstrating the bravery, passion and talent required to bring PIG to the stage successfully.
PIG, directed by Brendan Healy, follows the lives of three gay couples, and explores the relationship between fantasy and reality, pain and pleasure, love and hate, and most importantly: life and death.
The characters of Cuntboy/Pig/Joe/‘Pig’ (Paul Dunn) explore their masochistic desires primarily through their relationships with Gorgeous Fucker/Knife/Stevie/‘Knife’ (Blair Williams). These couples struggle to keep up with the continually raising stakes of their S&M fantasies and their growing love and devotion to each other. The intensity of their relationship is mediated by the outstanding presence of Harry/Barry/Larry/Gary (Bruce Dow) who plays the voyeur to their complicated domestic drama. Dow’s opening of the first two acts artfully implicates the audience in his voyeuristic game and demonstrates that watching can be just as nefarious as touching.
Much of this play’s ambiguity and tension derives from its use of doubling, wherein each actor plays multiple parts and the link between the characters they play remains unknown. This effect is particularly interesting in the beginning of the play, when Cuntboy and Gorgeous Fucker discover each other on the Internet. These simulations of online interactions serve to establish the fragmentation of gay identities, a theme that will continue to unravel under the 21st century pressures for gay relationships to “conform” and “normalize”. The brilliance of this doubling is revealed through the characters of Joe and Stevie, whose struggles to keep their relationship and careers as writers alive, show that gay writing is as just as susceptible to the pressure to conform as gay sex.
The success of PIG is due, in no small part, to the fantastic lighting design by Rebecca Picherak. Picherak’s mastery of the relationship between light and dark creates a world of shadows and reflections that contribute just as much to the ambiguity of the play as the performances. The transition into the ominous lighting scheme at the start of the second act creates, for the audience, an experience very much like the brutal bondage scene that ends the show.
PIG is a challenging play that unapologetically defies expectations. In the tradition of In-Yer-Face Theatre, this play pulls no punches when exposing the cracks and flaws in our culture, regarding love, sex, and writing. I am certain viewers of this production of PIG will leave the theatre with an altered perception about these matters. To have such an impact on a viewer is a play’s greatest achievement.
PIG is playing at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto, from September 19 to October 6. Tickets are available online at buddiesinbadtimes.com or by phone 416-975-8555.