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Review: Civilization (All You Can Eat) at Woolly Mammoth

Arty Pants
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Bitches tend to go for the sweet things in life (pina colada mimosa, anyone?), but sometimes we need a bite of something bitter. So, if you’re in the mood for dark theater with a cosmic twist—or just into weird shit—check out Woolly Mammoth’s “Civilization (all you can eat).” It’s creepy and thought-provoking, with enough humanity seeping through to be funny—although it’s more funny/ironic than funny/ha-ha.

Photo by: Stan Barouh
Photo by: Stan Barouh

Set in 2008 at the brink of the recession, the play follows the intertwining story lines of several sellouts, including a white trash waitress (Naomi Jacobson) whose daughter turns to porn to save their house, and her PhD-toting brother (Sean Meehan) who bases his motivational speeches on an interpretation of chaos theory that he knows is wrong.

The actors who play these two characters stand out for their depth and timing, but Big Hog (Sarah Marshall) steals the show as the play’s anthropomorphic pig. No “Charlotte’s Web” cutsie crap here. This pig is out to escape from his wretched factory farm to taste the buffet of life experiences that he lists maniacally between squeal spasms.

“Civilization (all you can eat)” continues to ask the two questions running through all of Woolly’s 32nd season: Does our civilization have an expiration date? And what comes next? In this world, civilization—in the sense of connection and compassion—is dying out as characters sacrifice themselves to feed the beast of their ambition. And what comes next might be a mechanical wasteland run by Capitalist pigs, albeit with a touch of nostalgia for more meaningful times.

Photo by: Stan Barouh
Photo by: Stan Barouh

Don’t get it? Don’t worry. It’s just a dog-eat-dog world out there. Or perhaps a human-eat-hog and hog-eat-human world. Still don’t get it? Then see “Civilization,” running through March 11. Prepare to be tested on how much of yourself you’ll compromise to get what you want, both in the theater and out—the lobby even presents opportunities to embarrass yourself for a free drink.

Tickets are a bit pricey ($40-$67.50), but you can get in for just $20 if you’re 30 or younger. If you like discussions, check out the post-show conversations on Feb. 22, Feb. 26 and March 1. And to bone up before the show, check out Woolly’s blog posts and podcasts on topics like what your community’s eating habits say about you, Occupy DC, and civilization’s best accomplishments.

Photo by: Stan Barouh
Photo by: Stan Barouh

Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.
Admin: (202) 289-2443
Box Office: (202) 393-3939

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