For over a decade, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern has kept audiences intrigued with its often mesmerizing, often mystifying brand of performance art. “Hunchback,” attempting to explore perceptions of beauty and ugliness, is no exception.
The hour-long piece employs excerpts from wide-ranging sources, along with original texts and music. The premise is that a contemporary Swedish pop band is performing a two-part show on judging what’s beautiful.
At first, the seven actors dress in high-fashion tuxedos and cocktail dresses while sporting physical deformities on their heads, created with sheer stockings and foam rubber. In the second half, they dress down in hipster garb, prominently displaying their blonde hair and cool demeanors while growing increasingly angry over petty slights and jealousies.
They sing and play original music by William Dawson, who’s the one man-band accompanying them on a variety of acoustic and electronic instruments. The actors also lip-synch recordings by Julio Iglesias and Burl Ives. Most numbers include choreography from doo-wop to hula moves.
Disparate monologues, taken from writings by Matsuo Basho, Oscar Wilde, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, James C. Dobson and others, fill in the spaces between the numbers, often with videos projected on movable screens.
There are some striking visuals (Germain Choffart and Lazarus Simmons as a two-headed freak speaking French and English; Dale Wolf being stuffed all over with hair as she reclines on the table) and riveting text delivery (Caitlin Wells sensuously reciting lines about leprosy; Dana Marks in a hilarious freeform speech about man versus animals). The musical numbers, such as Yakira Cang and Shelby Hahn’s intense vocals at the microphone, are boisterous and full of attitude (if unrelentingly loud).
Director Jaybird O’Berski, the cast and the other crew members created the piece together. The result is a loose organization of scenes, an improvisatory nature and indications that the actors are having more fun performing it than the audience is in experiencing it. The selections are often too oblique or under-developed to make a strong connection to the stated theme.
Little Green Pig has a loyal following for a good reason. For “Hunchback,” the best recommendation is, “you will like this sort of thing, if this is the sort of thing you like.”
What: “Hunchback,” presented by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern
Where: Walltown Children’s Theatre, 1225 Berkeley St., Durham
When: 8 p.m. May 13 and 18-20