Pig Iron Theater Co
The prairie here isn't quite dusty enough to roam — the cacti just beginning to green, the busted-down pickup truck not so very busted. Yet it's so dang hot while visiting the set of Welcome to Yuba City — Pig Iron Theatre Co.'s latest Live Arts offering — that it feels an awful lot like the border town created by playwright Deborah Stein, the cast of Pig Ironers, designers, choreographers and director Quinn Bauriedel.
In this mythic America, everything is one-of-a-kind, broken and wild, made from unusual connections and half-digested philosophy. It's a center-west that, here in Obamaland, seems left behind.
"Being different — otherness — is a theme in the piece," says Bauriedel on a break from talking up the 7-foot restraining order that keeps feuding-lover Yuba characters (played by company co-founder Dito van Reigersberg and newcomer Charlotte Ford) at bay. Other Pigs in the distance include company members Sarah Sanford, Geoff Sobelle, James Sugg, Hinako Arao and Alex Torra.
The characters have names and identities, but Yuba's toying with archetypes — the cowboy-philosopher, the vagrant, the alien-seeker, the fussing fighting couple — all seemingly in a tug-of-war with no battle ever won or lost. "Dito and Charlotte are locked in an endless fight, needing to keep away from one another to honor the restraining order, but also realizing they don't want to be much more than 7 feet away, either."
Yuba's characters are largely outsiders, on the margins physically, psychically. "If you look hard enough, you see there's a sly commentary about immigration in the piece, too. But it's not an overtly political play. The West inspired us because it lives in our collective imagination; it is an unreal place. No wonder, then, that it is forgotten."
It's easy to forget something you barely even know. Sure, Yuba's language is mostly nonverbal, and movement-based. Yes, it references Pig Iron's greatest hits — the physicality of Cafeteria, the absurd logic of Mission to Mercury, the clown spirit of Flop. But for a company steeped in its own mythology, Bauriedel claims Yuba's something they ain't seen before. "Past works are our shorthand," he says. "But this piece runs by its own set of rules, with its own inner logic quite different from anything we've done."
Yuba's initial inspiration was a photograph of an endless highway out West with a billboard in the foreground. Painted on the billboard was an image of another endless highway with a snow-capped mountain. The notion that someone would paint a mountain on such a landscape was totally preposterous on the one hand, and absolutely brilliant on the other. "This led us to discuss the contradictions, the myths and the tall tales of the West," says Bauriedel. "That image became central to the set design, to the acting style. We use the phrase 'trying to be, but not quite there yet.' We really feel like we're on the endless highway."
Sept. 2-19, $20-$30, Festival Theater at The Hub, 626 N. Fifth St.