How do you like your BBQ? A) Mustard-based? B) Vinegar-based? C) Pollution-based? The play HOGS by Rodney Lee Rogers (of PURE Theatre), currently running at Crabpot Players, explores the reasons why people might actually choose option C. The Crabpot Players have existed in Charleston for over 25 years, but just recently made the move to Mt. Pleasant from Isle of Palms. This show is their first (and hopefully not last) professional show and features an all-local cast of many PURE Theatre and Theatre 99 performers.
Dr. Stockman-Kelly is working with Mayor Stockman (her brother) on the development of a large "Spa and Wellness Center" in their small South Carolina town. The facility is expected to boost the town's failing economy considerably, once it is up and running, which the mayor is exceedingly happy about. Unfortunately, Dr. Stockman-Kelly receives a water analysis report that states that all of the water in the town is contaminated. The source of the contamination is hogs. That is to say hog farms—farms that allowed hog waste and hog carcasses to come into contact with major rivers, thus poisoning the water.
The first seemingly obvious response would be to halt construction of the spa and treat the water. Unfortunately, this could take years to accomplish, and in the meantime, the town would continue to suffer. Small businesses would fail, jobs would disappear, not to mention that one of the only ways to "clean" the water is shoot it up into the air, letting it spray and evaporate, only to have it settle back on land. The mayor fears these repercussions and, instead of exposing the truth, demands that his sister lies about the pollution level of the water. Her refusal to do so turns her, as well as her family, into social pariahs in their own town.
This is a sci-fi-esque story about the nature of truth and the moral obligation that people have to the planet and to each other. This play is loosely based on an 1882 play by Henrik Ibsen (A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler) called An Enemy of the People, which he wrote after his previous play, Ghosts, was accused of being indecent. Henrik Ibsen was one of the first playwrights in history whose works directly and realistically approached current events, turning theatre into a strong vessel for critical thinking. An Enemy of the People challenged the idea that truth was perpetual and unchanging. That is to say, that truth is not permanent, it will change, and old truths will die.
Writer Rodney Lee Rogers, after seeing a modernized production of A Doll’s House (DOLLHOUSE by Rebecca Gilman), realized the versatility and accessibility of Ibsen. He saw a connection between the themes of An Enemy of the People and events surrounding the massive hog farms in North Carolina. For some time, there had been speculation that the water had been poisoned by runoff from the local hog farms. Rogers says, "My uncle, who had run for governor to raise awareness of the situation [in NC], had detailed the story since I was a teenager. Over the years, I had tried several times to write a play about it. With adapting Ibsen's piece, the two ideas collided and fit extraordinarily well together."
This production employed the use of projections designed by Miles Boinest, which appeared throughout the show. These images and videos (mostly of pigs, pig farms, and rural countryside) were an effective, sometimes grisly form of visual storytelling. At the beginning of the second act, the character of Dr. Stockman-Kelly simply stands center stage while the images are projected on and around her, images that act as a cruel reminder of the subject matter of the show—a striking theatrical moment.
HOGS runs at the new Crabpot Theatre at 1137 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard in Mt. Pleasant until March 28. The production is directed by R.W. Smith and features actors Jenny Pringle, Mark Poremba, Danny Jones, Gibson Carter, Camille Loman, Maurice McPherson, and Patrick Arnheim. Tickets are available at the box office or at www.crabpotplayers.com.