A game cast and solid production elevate this stunty satirical allegory.
Would you believe this new comedy about adult My Little Pony fans is really a cautionary tale about creeping authoritarianism? Yes, the gimmick of Eric John Meyer’s world premiere play at Theater Wit—and it does come to feel pretty gimmicky, unfortunately—is that it centers on a small group of “bronies” and “pegasisters” who get together weekly to roleplay as characters from a kids’ cartoon. But that premise is ultimately just a hoof—er, hook—that Meyer uses to chase down a horse of a different color.
The opening scene, set in the Pittsburgh apartment of club organizer Ben (Edward Mawere), establishes the presence outside of a vigilante “neighborhood watch” imposing order based on vague “crime is up” rhetoric. The local watch follows a pattern seen in other cities, we’re told, making enemies of anyone deemed abnormal. That makes targets of our Pony expressionists, who have to hide their proclivities in the streets; the timid Shawn (Will Allan), first seen in an ensemble of hot-pink tulle, furry pants and tail, hides his light under a Steelers jacket before venturing outdoors. But the growing neighborhood watch—which morphs into a political movement dubbed the Antelope Party—soon infects even this group, and even the lessons of its “Friendship Is Magic” holy text can’t forestall the transformations it brings.
Though it’s a bit of an all-purpose allegory, Meyer’s microcosmic satire has some interesting observations about the authoritarian need to invent a common enemy—“gutterpunks” here become the scapegoats du jour—as well as a revisionist history that recasts the powerful as the oppressed. But the My Little Pony theme wears out its usefulness by intermission, becoming Antelope’s albatross. And while the constantly shifting POV, with characters’ allegiances changing from scene to scene, is almost certainly a deliberate choice, it ultimately proves alienating despite the efforts of director Jeremy Wechsler and a thoroughbred cast. As for the brony angle, well, much like the cartoon’s abundant pony puns, it’s pretty forced.
Theater Wit. By Eric John Meyer. Directed by Jeremy Wechsler. With Will Allan, Anu Bhatt, Mary Winn Heider, Evan Linder, Edward Mawere, Annie Munch. Running time: 2hrs 15mins; one intermission.