Theater Review (NYC): Love of a Pig by Leslie Caveny

Leslie Caveny’s experience writing for television is evident in her sparkling new comedy, Love of a Pig. Like a well-written sitcom episode, it boasts fast pacing, short, sharp exchanges, minimal time between laughs, and one dramatic decrescendo into touching quietude. What makes it special is that it extends the best features of scripted TV comedy over an hour-plus of live action, without losing focus or shine.

Also like a sitcom plot, the play is built upon a hackneyed premise. The aptly, drably named Jenny Brown (Dana Brooke), a twenty-something violin grad student, can’t get a date. There’s nothing wrong with her appearance or personality; rather, she’s locked in a cycle of low self-esteem and high self-consciousness that makes her an Invisible Girl when it comes to attracting Joe (Steven Strobel), a brooding, self-absorbed bassist, while blinding her to signals from a guy who does find her appealing.

Pretty common stuff. But Caveny, director D. H. Johnson, and the sprightly, almost scarily talented cast spin it into a perfect piece of salty-sweet fun.

The play is simultaneously an ensemble piece and a star turn for Dana Brooke, whose tour de force of a performance is a controlled explosion of emotional movements and colors. The other seven actors play a variety of roles, some more or less realistic, some clownish and even puppetlike – from barfly to mailman to fellow students to door (yes, door). David Nelson is delightfully squirmy as the bitter, over-sensitive music instructor, and Jenny Greer is hilarious as our heroine’s lightheaded teenage sister, but there are no weak links in the cast or the production as a whole.

Credit must go to the director for keeping the proceedings so peppery and brisk. Yet despite all the vigorous action, cute business, and a facile ending, there’s enough substance that you feel you’ve been in the company of real people with realistic problems, behaving just as kindly and cluelessly as your own friends and acquaintances.

Except these folks are funnier. Much, much funnier.

Wednesdays through Sundays through Oct. 28 at the 45th Street Theatre. Tickets online or call (212) 868-4444.