Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Live Arts Review: Zero Cost House

A trifecta: boring, pretentious and arrogant, says Toby Zinman.

Live Arts Review: Zero Cost House

A trifecta: boring, pretentious and arrogant.  Pig Iron Theatre Company’s Zero Cost House  would have put me to sleep if it hadn’t annoyed me so intensely. This is the kind of baloney that gets called “avant garde” and makes you wonder how so many talented, smart people could produce such rubbish.

 Japanese writer Toshiki Okada, who is hot stuff in the Japanese theatre and literary scene (and whose own company has a show in this year’s LiveArts festival, “Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech”), wrote “Zero Cost House” in collaboration with Pig Iron, using his interest in Thoreau’s Walden as an autobiographical gauge.  Fifteen years ago, he tells us, he thought Walden, with its advice to “simplify, simplify,” was the key to living; he worried that when he was older he might find Thoreau’s advice naïve and his proscriptions arrogant.

Sure enough, 15 years later, he was disenchanted; then came the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami followed by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, and once again Thoreau looked wise.  Okada then fell under the charismatic spell of a radical architect (James Sugg channeling Dennis Hopper) who urges all his Twitter follows to evacuate Tokyo and become citizens of a new country. Pig Iron, under Dan Rothenberg’s direction,  subsequently fell under Okada’s charismatic spell.

The actors (Dito von Reigersberg, Mary McCool, Shavon Norris, James Sugg and Alex Torra) play a variety of gender-disregarding roles, sometimes appearing as rabbits, sometimes playing ukuleles, sometimes making elaborate hand gestures which made no sense to me, almost always mumbling, sometimes lapsing into uptalk, as if the dialogue were merely throw away (well …).

-- Toby Zinman

Zero Cost House through Sept. 22 at Arts Bank, Broad and South Sts. $18-$35.

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

Philly Stage
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected