Religion can be confusing, muddled, and even incomprehensible at times. If that is the message that Little Green Pig, in its production of And the Ass Saw the Angel, directed by Dana Marks, and onstage now at Manbites Dog Theater, means to get across, then it succeeds entirely…if only by having an appropriately confusing, muddled, and incomprehensible script.
To be fair, the script is adapted from a short and intriguing novel of the same name by Nick Cave, which deals with a whole lot more than the tried-and-true “religion sucks” and “faith is both good and bad” viewpoint. But, what the novel gets across through subtlety and nuance, the play fails to deliver. A clumsy hodgepodge of narratives, the script tells the story of Euchrid Eucrow, hauntingly (and wordlessly) portrayed by Emily Holladay Anderson. Euchrid is mute, born into an abusive family, and what many would call a hopeless case.
However, the town in which he lives is equally, if not even more so, hopeless. Surrounded by an eerily odd religious sect- known as the Ukulites, young Euchrid comes of age. His only friend is the town harlot Cosey Mo (Caitlin Wells). And, when things turn ugly for his dear pal, things turn even uglier in Euchrid’s mind and in his deeds.
The script does a beautiful job of skewing biblical passages for its own purposes, a sort of showing-through-showing sub-text that mirrors the message of the play, and it is also liltingly poetic. However, to be fair, all of those positive attributes are owed to the lovely, haunting novel from which the script sprang.
That is not to say, however, that this production is without merit. Wells, in all of her willowy glory, does a wonderful job of portraying both world-weary but innocent-in-her-own-right Cosey Mo, as well as beautiful, spiritually-adored Beth- two characters who are strikingly similar in spite of their surface-level differences. Likewise, Anderson is wonderful and wonderfully physical here, making Eucrow as hauntingly real as possible without uttering a word.
David Fellerath and Jeff Alguire must also be credited for their perfect sets- which basically serve as separate but still-holistic vignettes into the lives of these troubled characters. Marks also does a good job with what she has been given- incorporating eerie videos and a wonderful Gothic quality into her direction.
It is, however, the script, adapted by John Justice and Jaybird O’Berski, that is mainly at fault here. It takes all that is subtle, moving, and brilliant about the novel and turns it into a confusing, hard-to-follow series of overlapping narratives. Perhaps the most positive thing that can be said about this production, which falsely incorporates humor into some of the novel’s most poignant moments, is that it may inspire others to read the novel.
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL, world premiere of John Fidel Justice and Jaybird O’Berski’s adaptation of Nick Cave’s cult novel, at 8:15 p.m. May 23, May 28-30, and June 3-6 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, , presented as part of Manbites Dog’s “Other Voices Series.”
TICKETS: $10 weeknights ($5 youth/student) and $15 weekends ($10 youth/student), with a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.
BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or http://manbitesdogtheater.org/tickets/.
SHOW: http://littlegreenpig.com/and-the-ass-saw-the-angel/ and http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2014-15-season/and-the-ass-saw-the-angel/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by nickflix1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njBsDLDwTxA.
PRESENTER: http://littlegreenpig.com/, https://www.facebook.com/LittleGreenPigTheatricalConcern, and https://twitter.com/OLittleGreenPig.
VENUE: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater, and https://twitter.com/ManbitesTheater.
MANBITES DOG BLOG (The Upstager): http://theupstager.wordpress.com/.
And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989 novel): http://nickcave.com/books/and-the-ass-saw-the-angel/ (official web page) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_the_Ass_Saw_the_Angel (Wikipedia).
Nick Cave (novelist): http://nickcave.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Cave (Wikipedia).
John Fidel Justice (adapter): http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsJ/justice-john.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database).
Jaybird O’Berski (adapter): https://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people/jay-oberski (Duke Theater Studies bio) and https://twitter.com/jaybirdoberski (Twitter page).
Dana Marks (director): https://www.facebook.com/dana.marks.5 (Facebook page) and http://www.artistsresourceagency.com/html/female_talent___dana_marks.html (Artists Resource Agency).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.