Havel, of course, was the Czech Republic's first
President, a human rights icon, who was also
a critically-acclaimed playwright. He died in 2013.
Havel's final theater piece, set some years before the
non-violent "velvet revolution" overthrew communist
Czechoslovakia, is phantasmagoric testimony to
his famous oft-quoted belief that, "Truth and love must
prevail over lies and hatred." But this is also the only
time he appears as a character in one of his plays.
As brilliantly directed by Henry Akona from a
translation by Edward Einhorn, "The Pig" tells the story
of Havel's near futile attempts to buy a pig for a "zabijacka"
or celebratory pig roast which foreshadows the demise of
communist rule. Havel's very presence in this
comic quest is not just buffoonery, I can tell you. It
underscores the restrictive nature of the "lies and
hatred" of oppression.
Yet it seems that every time he and
the villagers are ecstatic about finally finding a pig
it slips out of their grasp. Is this a symbol of elusive
freedom and peace of mind? I believe so. I understand
that Havel himself had an big sense of humor despite
four years in prison and constant persecution.
Playing Havel, Robert Honeywell is properly
bureaucratic and uproariously funny in his frustrated
attempts to buy a pig. And what a commanding voice he
has! Katherine Boynton is perfectly cast as the
ditzy American TV journalist interviewing Havel and
others on camera. Yet to her immense credit, her movie
star good looks and flawless comic timing don't hide her
character's underlying warmth and humanity which become
plainer as the play progresses. Her performance oddly
reminded me of Cary Grant's in the classic movie
"Bringing Up Baby," co-starring Katharine Hepburn.
The entire cast is unusually talented - as
actors, singers as well as instrumentalists. Melissa
Elledge, John Gallop, Andrew Goldsworth, Jennifer
Harder, David Hov, Mateo Moreno, Emily Shankman, Pheobe
Silva, Moira Stone, Terence Stone, Michael Whitney, and
Sandy York are among the most talented performers you'll
see on any Off-Broadway, or for that matter, Broadway
stage. And I especially liked Christopher Yustin as
Fanda, who tries to come up with an appropriate pig
Havel can buy, and Jenny Lee Mitchell who played the
Tapmaster's wife as well as the clarinet.
As I've indicated, "The Pig" is not simple,
straightforward fair. But I can truly say that ever
since I accompanied my father, the late legendary late
drama critic Ward Morehouse to Broadway plays, I've
seldom ever enjoyed an evening in the theater as much.