PLAY REVIEW For 'Love of a Pig,' you'll keep smiling

It's the story of one girl's pursuit of a boyfriend.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The hallmarks of Black Box Productions have always been inventive staging that forgoes sets and props, and the selection of colorful -- if not obscure -- plays that prove to be sparkling treats.
"Love of a Pig," written by Leslie Caveny, is no exception. The student-run troupe at Youngstown State University is performing the comedy this weekend to kick off the 2006-07 season. Opening night was Thursday.
"Pig" is the farcical story of Jenny, a music student, who decides she needs a boyfriend, sets her sights on a disinterested classmate, and then discards all self-respect in her hilarious pursuit of him.
Stephanie Ottey plays Jenny with perfect pitch, displaying an ability to shift emotions in a heartbeat. Jenny is a plain jane who is earnest and methodical (out of the 4,984 days since puberty, she has spent 4,981 nights alone, she matter-of-factly points out), but naive and very vulnerable. Ottey conveys the rapid chain of emotions Jenny goes through -- loneliness, first love, jealousy, heartbreak -- with innocence and eagerness.
Funny moments
The situations she gets into, like when she finally asks Joe to dinner, are uproariously funny, but with a touch of squirm-in-your-seat discomfort caused by her nervous aggressiveness. "How'd I sound?," a breathless Jenny asks her girlfriends after the big moment. "Very natural," they assure her, even though they fed her all her lines.
Tony Genovese plays Joe, the object of her infatuation, who unwittingly teaches her a life lesson. As Joe, Genovese captures the nuances of annoyance and exasperation as he deals with Jenny's awkward and self-conscious come-ons.
Jenny's mailman, played by Gary Shackelford, and an eight-person all-purpose chorus (Rachel Rossi, Roxanne Hauldren, Shawn Lockaton, Randall Huffman, Noelle Nackino, Dan Poppke, Nicole Dionisio and Max Pivik) round out the cast. Richard H. Bell is the director.
With the exception of a few boxes and some trapezoidal-shaped spotlights, the theater-in-the-round stage is empty. But the barren set becomes a canvas for unlimited imagination in the hands of the cast and director Bell.
Even the music is smile-inducing. Snippets of familiar songs -- for example, the opening bars of the "Cheers" theme when a dejected Jenny decides to go to the bar -- draw a chuckle while mentally setting the stage for the audience.
The two-hour play has no intermission, and for that reason the viewer might begin to feel a bit of strain toward the end. But it's only momentary, as the clever ending sequence soon comes along to lift the play to a satisfying conclusion.
X"Love of a Pig" will be performed tonight at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Spotlight Arena Theater, in Bliss Hall, on Wick Avenue. For ticket information, call (330) 941-3105.

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