BOTTOM LINE: David Chesky's The Pig, the Farmer, and the Artist is an ambitious satirical opera that comments through allegory on the struggles of artists and the sad state of art today.
The Pig, the Farmer, and the Artist tells the tale of Shirley the cow, a former hooker from Amsterdam, and her transvestite husband Harvey (also a cow), as they flee their owner Farmer Jones, who wishes to slaughter them as well as molest them. Taking refuge in the East Village, they accidentally become breakout stars on the high-brow art scene. Back on the farm, their nemesis, an absurdly well-endowed pig — so large that at one point the cast uses his member to jump rope — decides to follow them to fame and fortune in New York City.
The piece purports to be an allegorical attack on our "present-day cultural malaise," yet it suffers because the music is too often tuneless, and the accompanying lyrics uninspired and inane. Perhaps this is the intent: a white screen projects narration from a sarcastic narrator named Hal who adds commentary such as "that was a really bad orchestration," and the cast sings lines such as "that was really trite, like this song." One can't help wonder why an opera that is supposed to skewer the state of art today is itself not artistically pleasing. The music is so incidental that the whole production seems to suffer from an unbearable sluggishness and monotony.
Make no mistake, the very talented cast sings their hearts out and are backed up by an impressive ten-piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Aibel, but you can't help at times wish that the cast and orchestra were given something a little meatier (no offense to transvestite cows and well-hung pigs) to work with.
(The Pig, the Farmer, and the Artist plays at The Ellen Stewart Theater at La Mama, 66-68 East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, through August 28th. Remaining performances are Saturday 8/21 at 2:15pm, Sunday 8/22 at 2:30pm, and Saturday 8/28 at 7:15pm. For more information visit www.davidchesky.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)