By Lucy Komisar
This collaborative, inventive multi-media play with music is based on a Samizdat dialogue the Czech dissident Havel wrote in 1987, using the device of a popular rural pastime – roasting a pig – to satirize the communist government. It was inspired by the true story of Havel trying to find a pig to roast for his friends.
The performance starts with the excellent mood device of Slovakian singer Katarina Vizina and Jenny Lee Mitchell of Cabaret Metropol, doing European songs to music redolent of Kurt Weil.
When the play opens, Havel (Robert Honeywell) is trying to buy a pig for a big village party. But every time he thinks he has made a deal with a farmer, the price goes up. Even for buying a pig, the system doesn’t work. It seems corrupt and abusive.
A dumb American TV reporter (Katherine Boynton) has come to interview Havel. She wears a too-tight dress, too-high heels, has too-messy long hair, and pronounces Havel with a long A. She is accompanied by a camera on a tripod, so that we see her scenes and other excellent and funny video on screens on four sides. (The audience is on chairs and at tables along the walls.)
The story is surreal. In the midst of all, as a political point, sections of the famous opera by Smetana, “The Bartered Bride,” are performed by Moira Stone and Terence Stone. (Their operatic voices are excellent.)
The Smetana work, the most important Czech opera, was written in the 1860s when the country was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czech could not be spoken, though it continued to be heard in rural communities. Thus it had a political message which Czech director Vladimir Morávek added in 2010 when he decided to stage Havel’s samizdat.
The price of the pig goes so high, that everyone in the village has to sign for it. But when the front page of the long, accordion-pleated bill is finally held up, it is Charter 77, the name of the human rights manifesto co-authored by Havel and signed by Czech writers and intellectuals in 1977.
Havel would spend four-and-a-half years in prison before the communist government fell to the Velvet Revolution and he became president.
The production gets a fine adaptation by Edward Einhorn and is directed with smartness and verve by Henry Akona. Honeywell is appropriately self-effacing as Havel, and Boynton emulates every self-important glitzy TV media star. Havel would have loved it.
“The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig.” Written by Václav Havel and Vladimir Morávek. Adapted into English by Edward Einhorn. Directed and musical arrangements by Henry Akona. 3LD Art & Technology Center & Untitled Theater Company #61. 80 Greenwich Street, New York City (a few steps south of the #1 train Rector stop). 866-811-4111.
The 20-minute cabaret begins ten minutes before curtain. After the hour production comes another half hour of music by Cabaret Metropol. You can buy pulled pork or vegetarian sandwiches and Czech beer, or water; no wine. Food must be ordered 24 hours in advance.Opened March 10, 2014; closes March 29, 2014. 3/20/14. Review on New York Theatre Wire.