Each Fringe, the Pig Iron Theatre Company show is one of the most highly anticipated. This year’s offering, 99 BREAKUPS, may be untidy and inconsistent but it’s already almost completely sold out. If you do have tickets, arrive early: the first few breakups occur outside the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts gallery as the audience gathers outside. After a messy entrance to the performance of a multi-member band which gradually loses its players, the audience is split into several groups to rotate through a handful of short pieces about breaking up.
Pig Iron shows are often more about the concept than the performances or play writing. Here, the concept is nebulous: “You don’t know whether it’s a love story or a break up story until the end”, says actor Sam Sherburne at the end of the final confused dance number. So does every break fit a mold? is it unique? just part of a love story? Nevermind, it’s an interesting idea: a series of short plays in a beautiful art museum. A couple of the pieces showcase Pig Iron’s creative, movement-focused style at its finest. The longest is the best: a couple argue over how to pronounce amuse-bouche and haricot verts, exposing the deep fault-lines of their relationship, at times over a literal megaphone. It’s a fine work, beautifully set under John Vanderlyn’s magnificent Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos. If every piece was of this standard, 99 BREAKUPS would have more staying power. As it is, you could walk away from this with little regret. [Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Broad and Arch Streets] September 4-16, 2014; FringeArts.com.
Read another review of 99 Breakups by Phindie writer Kathryn Osenlund.