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Disco Pigs

I see only him, he sees only me.

Dan Brick and Linda Murray
D. Brick and L. Murray (Photo: Paul Ogba)
Alternately humorous and disturbing, newly formed Solas Nua brings Enda Walsh's coming-of-age tale Disco Pigs to touching reality on the small Church Street Theatre stage. The production is frenetic and at times unnerving in its portrayal of two teenagers living adult lives in a working class Irish town, where violence and anger seem to be the entertainment of choice.

Written by one of Ireland's most famous contemporary playwrights, Disco Pigs is the winner of both the 1997 Stewart Parker and George Devine Awards. The story charts the course of Pig and Runt's seventeenth birthday as they take on "Pork Sity" (Cork City) to exert their freedom, independence and rave-like dancing.

Born one second apart, in the same hospital, by mothers who happened to be friends and neighbors of each other, the two have been raised side by side their entire lives. To stave off the uncertainty of the volatile world around them, they've formed a secret language to keep life at bay and their own lives intertwined. However, now that they are reaching maturity, one would like to move on from their insulated partnership to see what the rest of the world holds, while the other would like to take their friendship to a more intimate level. Along the way, they trash a liquor store, coerce fights with Sinn Fein and other assorted partiers, sneak into the glamorous Palace Disco and watch Bay Watch as much as possible.

Director Eric Lucas (who also is currently appearing in Scena Theatre's Gladiator) has gotten his actors to take the audience on a high-energy shopping cart ride through a night in Pork Sity. Using just a shopping cart, a bare stage and strobe lights, the show is an immersion into the Irish slang of the time and the lyric language of the playwright.

Billy Maloy's costumes entail t-shirts, jeans and various thrift store "retro wear" while Dan Martin's lighting is a mix of dance floor aesthetics and small spots. David Crandall's sound design incorporates some 70's disco with 90's industrial dance and interesting classical remix.

As Pig and Runt, Dan Brick and Linda Murray create a dynamic relationship that flows well and builds in its intensity. Ms. Murray is the Artistic Director of Solas Nua, while Mr. Brick is the Managing Director. Each has appeared together in previous Irish playwright productions for Scena Theatre, most recently in Martin McDonagh's third installment of his "Leenane Trilogy" The Lonesome West. The Keegan Theatre, which is a co-producer of this production, is currently showing Mr. McDonagh's first installment The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Together with Disco Pigs audiences can see Irish theatre seven days a week at Church Street Theatre throughout the month of July.

As Pig, Mr. Brick is a mix of violent, delusional testosterone and child-like need. What he lacks in brains he makes up for in brawn. Reveling in his blue-collar roots, he has a huge chip on his shoulder and is always ready to lash out in support of its cause. Frightened of the adult world that awaits him, he is determined to keep Runt for himself as a sense of security and familiarity.

Meanwhile, Ms. Murray presents a happy school girl, delighting in the chaos that the two create and the attention of Pig. Until she realizes that she can't hide behind being a child any longer and that ultimately she will be pulled into the repercussions of Pig's bullying ways. Able to more readily embrace maturity, she must make a fateful decision that will affect both of their lives.

Solas Nua (Irish for "New Light") was organized just last year and describes itself as currently "the only contemporary Irish arts organization in the United States." Their goal is to offer theatre, film, photography and literary discussions that provide U.S. audiences with a better understanding of modern Irish society and its cultural offerings to the world.

Within the performance the greatest barrier for audiences is the heavy accents and Irish slang which comprises so much of the play's dialogue. While Solas Nua describes the performance as an opportunity to "allow the color of the language to evoke images and emotions" and not "struggle with comprehension," audiences may want to peruse the glossary of terms, which is included in the performance program. The concentrated listening required for Disco Pigs may not be for everyone. However, the attention you give to the performance pays off with discovering a new aspect of Irish culture and the complex lives of some its people.

Disco Pigs
by Enda Walsh
Directed by Eric Lucas
with Dan Brick and Linda Murray
Lighting Design: Dan Martin
Sound Design: David Crandall
Costume Design: Billy Maloy
Running Time: 1 hour with no intermission
A production of Solas Nua ( in association with The Keegan Theatre
Church Street Theatre, 1742 Church Street NW
Telephone: 202-595-1760
MON - WED @ 8, SUN @ 7; $13.50-$17.50
Opening 06/28/05, closing 07/27/05
Reviewed by Rich See based on 06/29/05 performance
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