With “Pigs, Bears and Billy Goats Gruff,” the folks from the Oz-based Patch Theater Company perform extremely simple playlets based on four fairy tales — minimally costumed and designed — with a friendly, occasionally musical flair that builds to a climactic rendition of “I’m in Love With a Big Blue Frog.” It’s not going to steal auds away from “August: Osage County,” but it goes over like gangbusters with the under-10 set.
At first, it’s a little baffling to see the folks who fill the New Victory’s booster seats engage with the performers on such a fundamental level. Don’t they realize there are no flying cars and no dancing on the ceiling in this show? Actually, no, they don’t. When Jacqy Phillips tells the kids that Stephen Sheehan is now the Big Bad Wolf, it never occurs to them not to believe her, and so it’s up to Sheehan to loll his tongue and act cartoonishly vulpine, much to everyone’s delight. There’s a base level of sincerity here that seems not only to substitute for flash but improve on it, at least as far as the young audience is concerned. Adults chasing one another around a kitchen table? Sold!
Stuart Day’s skilled piano accompaniment makes the work fun without sounding like a film score, and the other instruments involved are visually as well as aurally interesting, especially Phillips’ accordion.
The four 15-minute tales are “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and a fourth story about a wish-granting frog who, of course, turns out to be large and blue.
Eileen Darley and Sheehan are the most active actors, while Phillips and Day do the lion’s share of musical duties, as well as the occasional funny voice. Dean Hills’ set and costumes are likable if unremarkable, and director Dave Brown generates screams of delight when he sends his actors out into the audience during a protracted chase sequence.
The only real problem with the show is that it begs comparison to other New Vic engagements, some of which, like “Wolves in the Walls” or the puppet version of “Macbeth,” have set the bar extraordinarily high. As cute as “Pigs” is, it’s not quite up to the theater’s usual standard. As usual with the New Vic, though, it’s always interesting to see a show at which 72 is the cumulative age of the audience rather than the average.