Performance Review: Pig Iron’s (Not So) Sweet By-and-By

Barely recovered from The European Lesson — a jolly fun play that disintegrated (and left me quite discombobulated) into a Sigur Ros video ("Untitled #1," aka "Vaka") — did I enter The Arts Bank, whereupon another Scandinavian collaboration awaited me, this one from Philadelphia’s beloved Pig Iron Theatre Company …

The Sweet By-and-By
By Pig Iron Theatre Company and Daniel Rudholm of Teater Sláva
Starring Daniel Rudholm

Strengths … All of the elements are there for a good show: a sparse, rustic stage set onto which beautiful animations are projected; a gifted actor; songs (everybody likes songs, right?); the promising story of a bygone rabble-rousing, unionizing, banjo-playing, rile-’em-up songster; and Pig Iron — which the New York Times described as “one of the few groups successfully taking theatre in new directions” — at the helm, no less.

Weaknesses … The songs, at a point, are tedious (when Rudholm observed the audience in need of cheering up, he asked, "How about a song?" after which my companion grasped my arm in sheer panic and whisper-pleaded "No!"), as is the overwritten and disengaging script. Daniel Rudholm, the one man in this one-man show, is an obvious talent, yet said talent is all but wasted in this non-story. 

Verdict … Perhaps this was just a labor of love (otherwise why the hell would they put it up?). Or maybe it’s just time that the highly reputable and respected Pig Iron had a miss. You’ll wish that time would fly, rather than crawl, by and by.

Through Saturday, September 13th, at the Arts Bank

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