Is it possible for a carnivorous canis lupus to get a fair trial in the Porcine Court of Piggsylvania? In Childrens Theatre of Charlottes production of a fairy tale turned upside-down, the answer is up to the audience.
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs gives a sophisticated spin to the traditional story of huffing and puffing and blowing houses down. Rather than dispensing lessons of sound carpentry, Robert Kauzlarics Book and Lyrics, adapted from the picture book written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, looks at truth, justice and coercion. Heady stuff for the 5-and-up crowd.
And indeed, the play is heavy handed. The script goes overboard demonstrating the wolfs disadvantage in a town full of pigs. Sad, gray Alexander T. Wolf is mocked, ignored, and mishandled at every turn. He falls into the foolish trap of representing himself, which means he has no defense until the final act, when a fair-minded reporter facilitates the telling of his side of the story.
One delightful revelation: The Tarradiddle Players can sing! Leslie Ann Giles plays the smug pig attorney Julia, so convinced of impending victory she hopes the trial ends in time for lunch at the trough. Her one-dimensional portrait of an unlikeable character is strident, but she has a lovely voice.
Occasionally the ensemble breaks into song, which is a good thing: Judge Prudence (Darlene Parker) has a soft spot for musical theater. This makes her vulnerable and likeable, rather than purely antagonistic, like the lawyer. Stephen Seay has the meatiest roles and uses a variety of accents to portray a reporter, a German doctor and his best part, the witness Martha. There is something hilarious about a man in drag playing an overweight pig with cat-shaped glasses.
Scott Miller is the burdened wolf, who is best when acting like a wolf and otherwise a little pitiful, as he tries to get a word in edgewise. He has excellent sniffing and scratching and whimpering techniques.
The dialogue is laced with piggy wordplay both kids and adults enjoyed. Theres a reference to a razorback-sharp attorney, the crime occurred on Babyback Drive, etc. Hogalicious.
Costume- and prop-wise, the pigs snouts are definitive, and the wolfs claws and jowls are believably frightening. Tim Paratis set painting of blindfolded pig justices holding scales and swords is impressive and almost too ironic. Pig cherubim and seraphim are border decorations, and the town emblem is a snout.
The wolf finally has an opportunity to spin his tale, and the kids are ready. In the end, the clear-cut choice between innocent and guilty is too simplistic. Adults probably realize that involuntary manslaughter would have been a reasonable plea; the kids just love oinking and squealing to determine the verdict by decibel level on the giant Guilt-O-Meter.
Maybe they learned a lesson in fair play. Maybe they learned there are two sides to every story. I hope they learned that one mans cheeseburger is another wolfs pig.