ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp DC Review
Civilization (all you can eat)
The underlying theme is greed. That’s where the pigs come in.
Grote is neither the first (and probably not the last) to clothe his villains in snouts — George Orwell’s Animal Farm comes to mind. Costume designer,Valerie St. Pierre Smith, the real star here, has dressed Civilization’s pigs in wonderful fat suits with black, trotter-like boxing gloves. The imagery is excellent. Choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning has created very life-like movement for the pigs, right down to the animals’ slow-descent into a prone position.
Sarah Marshall, as Big Hog, gives a very fine performance even thought her facial and vocal tricks are no longer new to Washington audiences. Besides it is not her fault that her part is over-written. Marshall is no stranger to acting a quadraped having played a dog to great effect in A. R. Gurney’s Sylvia at Studio Theatre several seasons ago.
Sean Meehan as Mike, the self-help guru, and Tia James as Zoe, his wife who's a director of commercials, are well matched as the seemingly upwardly mobile couple who have been forced to compromise their professional ambitions in favor of a regular pay check. Casie Platt is strong as Jade, the willful daughter of Mike’s sister Carol, a waitress with no future. Carol is played with exquisite sensitivity by Naomi Jacobson, one of Washington’s most versatile and consistently good character actresses.
Veronika Vorel’s sound design includes smooth jazz, country and western and some pop music created a nice undertone. Aaron Fisher’s video designs, projected on to Daniel Ettinger’s barn door-like set were less successful as the images together created what felt like double vision. Lighting designer Colin K. Bills’s most notable contribution was a scene of stars.
As well as making remarkably real porcine gaits for the pigs, choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning has come up with some truly inventive entr’acte movement –— covering faces and knocking knees, pushing chairs and tables around and particularly striding and eating at the same time -- for all the actors. Her contribution is pure satire — amusing and at the same time witty.
Jason Grote used to write for Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and he is currently part of the writimg team of Smash, the new NBC/Dreamworks tv show about the making of a Broadway musical. It should therefore come as no surprise that his writing is episodic and gag-driven satire. Director Howard Shalwitz has corralled the numerous pieces of Grote’s puzzle into an entertainment that, like an all you can eat buffet, is too much. Some judicious editing would help bring home a crisper bacon.