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.