As the ancient proverb goes, blood is thicker than water. West Palm Beach-based playwright Todd Caster flips that notion on its head in his latest work, Little Piggies -- a satirical black comedy in which greed, not blood, trumps all else.
Staged by local theater company the Playgroup LLC at Fort Lauderdale's quaint Empire Stage, Caster's work explores the insatiable lust for wealth that often tears families apart.
At the center of Caster's piece is a sibling rivalry. Three siblings (or the three little money-hungry piggies) who have just stumbled upon the fact that their aging Uncle Alex has amassed a serious amount of coin in his lifetime. Each wanting a bigger piece of the pie and looking to secure a place in the windfall of his fortune, the three stage a birthday party to honor their newfangled uncle of wealth.
The matriarch of the family is Sis (played by Fort Lauderdale native Sara Lee), who is the rock that holds the family together. Then there is middle child Marie (performed by Davie-by-way-of Chicago actor Elli Murray), who is more of a flake. Described by Murray as "a character with champagne tastes on a beer budget," Marie has an affinity for the finer things in life, and her doting husband, Bob, hopes to fulfill all her whims and fancies.
Finally, there is the token family blockhead, Chuck, the youngest of the three, played by former Shakespeare Festival Company member Pierre Tannous. Chuck is a rather impish character whom the family mostly slaps around.
"It's really more of an ensemble piece," explains Little Piggies' director and Playgroup manager, Joyce Sweeny, who tells New Times that the play consists of eight robust characters. Each sibling comes with a matching mate (whether it be a girlfriend or spouse) who fawns over Uncle Alex and his newfound riches.
"What Caster really tries to demonstrate here is the manner in which people shed their morals and ethics when in pursuit of money," Sweeny says of the play, which she calls "tongue in cheek" and likens to the witty sardonic nature of Mark Frost and David Lynch's off-kilter 1990s television drama Twin Peaks. "We hope to prod audiences and make them question if this could really happen to them."
Sweeny, who was instrumental in founding the Playgroup in 2010, is an ardent fan of Caster's work. Little Piggies is the second Caster production her theater company staged, the first was Broken Angels. Sweeny says all of Caster's efforts have a distinct socially conscious common thread.
The partnership between Caster and the Playgroup has proven a fruitful one for both parties. The Playgroup's rendering of Broken Angels, a tragic play dealing with the grim subject of eugenics, brought a multitude of attention to the young upstart playwright. "I like to say we knew him first," jokes Sweeny. "People are finally starting to notice how much of a talent he is."
Playgroup is on the up and up too. What started as a part of Broward Library's Big Read project five years ago, morphed into a burgeoning theater company that, under Sweeny's guidance, hopes to shell out three productions in 2015.
First on tap this year will be the nine-show run of Little Piggies, however. Sweeny coyly hints that this laugh-out-loud stage show comes with a twist. There is a critical eighth character who shows up to the party late and jerks all the other siblings' desires for wealth. Who this essential final character is who throws everyone else into a tizzy audiences will have to wait and see, according to Sweeny.
Little Piggies. Through January 18 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $25. Call 954- 678-1496, or visit theplaygroupllc.com.
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