Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 29, 2012

The Sty of the Blind Pig

TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through February 26, 2012
by Jarice Hanson

When "The Sty of the Blind Pig" by Philip Hayes Dean was first produced in 1971, Time magazine called it “one of the year’s ten best plays.” Part comedy, part tragedy, audiences were introduced to complicated, empathetic urban African-American characters in Chicago at the time of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Mama Weedy (Brenda Thomas) is committed to her church and the old ways of the South, where she grew up; Uncle Doc (Jonathan Earl Peck) is a gambler and a “sportin’ man;” and 30-year old Alberta (Krystel Lucas) works as a domestic and holds the family together despite her loneliness. Into their lives comes Blind Jordan (Eden Marryshow), representing the tradition of the singing Blind Man in African-American culture, who is part prophet, part savior, and part devil. The passage of time is confusing in this three act play, and one wonders whether the weakness in the production has to do with a decision to emphasize character relationships rather than deal with the fear of the unknown future for African-Americans, which would have been a powerful theme in the early 1970's.

In the production directed by Tazewell Thompson at TheaterWorks, the cast has command of their characters and injects energy into their performances, but the arc of the play never becomes clear. Important character and plot points are never effectively sewn together. Why does Alberta take medicine? What is the connection between African-Americans in the urban North, with traditions of the South? Why is there never a denouement to make the characters understand the consequences of their actions? The script is complicated, to be sure, and the comedy works, but the tragedy remains unresolved, leading the audience to care for the characters, but unfulfilled by the story.