Huffing and Puffing_lowres

Deva (Jesse Meriwether) is a head-turning dominatrix, as Ryan Reinike finds out as one of the Piggies at Zeitgeist.

The persecution and assassination of junk bond dealers as directed by the Marquis de Sade in an asylum on the Planet of the Apes.

That was my first reaction to Piggies, and I don't think my reaction was too far off (except that the ringmaster of this perverse sideshow was a Marquise, not a Marquis). Mara Rouen's original play (at Zeitgeist) is about entropy and sex in corporate America. And it runs backwards. So the first thing one encounters is ground zero of sexual chaos.

Three yuppies have reversed Darwin and turned into some sort of lower species: white-collar Anthropopitheci, half human, half primate. They are dressed in tatters (and, significantly, black leather). Their faces are painted in primitive smudges of black and red. They order Domino's pizzas, which they stuff into their mouths, slobber over, spit out. They speak in gibberish or bursts of dadaist anti-poetry ("mistook, mistaken, taken in." "Eat? Eat pizza? Share Pizza! No, Pizza mine!")

What accounts for this simian behavior? Behind these missing links, there is a missing lynx; an all-controlling dominatrix with the mytho-poetic name of Deva. Mommy, Goddess, Whore, Temptress, Inflicter of pain and humiliation. She is, of course, dressed in clothes that are tight-fitting and black.

As the story winds toward its beginning, we watch these Wall Street traders return to normalcy. We come to learn that an attractive new secretary was hired by the firm. Arousing the concupiscence of her male co-workers, she gradually enmeshed them all in a web of erotic submission.

I suppose the play can be seen as a retelling of The Three Little Pigs. Each of the little financial piggies tries to hide from the big bad she-wolf in a different sort of psychic structure. But, alas, there is no house of bricks. Deva struts and vamps and blows their houses all in.

The set (by James Winter and Ryan Reinike) is a square playing area, with the audience forming the sides and a platform in each corner; the platforms contain the three offices of the piggies and the lair of Deva, with its two symbolic-looking barren tree trunks.

Between the scenes that portray the downfall of the piggies, there are interludes in which Deva recites poems. These are poems you have heard before, but they are not so utterly familiar that you can say with absolute certainty, "Ah, 'The Flea,' by John Donne," or whatever. You feel even less confident about the relationship of the poem to the drama. You are perplexed. But, then again, causing perplexity seems to be one of the goals of the presentation.

Perhaps the most telling clue to understanding the story comes at the very end of the play (remember, the end of the play is really the beginning). Deva is in her lair. She is listening to her answer machine: a series of angry, insulting messages from men -- either former lovers or former tricks or some mixture of the two. She slumps over in pain, under the torrent of verbal abuse. But then, she is awakened. Her outraged and victimized femininity will take revenge. She will become a wolf-vamp-dominitrix. Little chauvinist male piggies beware!

Of course, I'm as delighted as the next one to discover bestial urges and perverse desires hidden behind the facades of affluent, successful, well-adjusted members of the business community. And watching a svelte, black-clad Fury wreak her sexually-titillating vengeance brings a tell-tale spot of slaver to the lips of my inner piggy. But, beyond those two questionable pleasures, I can't say I found this dark fable very satisfying. Its value lies more in experimental panache than artistic completion.

Under James Winter's direction, the cast goes whole hog, as it were. Christian Middleton, Christopher Lee and Ryan Reinike do everything in their power to bring to life "The Uni-dimensional Corporate Man" they are collectively meant to embody. While Jesse Meriwether performs the excruciatingly difficult role of Deva with a marvelous aplomb. Deva is a figure whose perfect incarnation would be a lusciously evil line drawing on the sex-ad pages at the back of a newspaper. To play her on stage and not give the audience "flop sweat" (embarrassment for the performer) is a real achievement.

Finally, I should add, that although I don't think Piggies is wholly successful as a play, it does show an interesting sense of form. It's an imaginative attempt to weld the fabulous and the real into a meaningful whole.

If you're looking for entertainment, Piggies is definitely not your thing. But if you've got a passionate interest in new ways the envelope can be pushed, you'll probably want to check it out. -->