On the Spot: Jason Grote

February 23, 2012

Jason Grote’s new play, “Civilization (all you can eat),” involves a pig, a would-be self-help guru and a young woman who wants to make the world a better place. But most attention on the odd play so far has focused on Woolly Mammoth’s Twitter snafu: The theater selected three folks to tweet from a few rehearsals of the play, and Grote wasn’t too happy about the ad hoc preview. The real drama, though, is onstage. So, we talked to Grote about the play beyond that 140-character dustup.

The play is about quotidian concerns like money and intention, but it’s put together in some very daring ways. For instance, one of the main characters, Big Hog, is an actual pig. Is that strictly to represent capitalism and greed?
I’m not sure that the play is a direct commentary on consumer capitalism. It’s not a simplistic viewpoint about how it would be a fine system if not for greedy, awful people. These are people motivated by necessity, all compromising themselves.

Is Big Hog meant to be villainous?
It’s not a Horatio Alger story — the Big Hog character operates on a monstrous, amoral level. That’s the way animals are.

Do you think people see Big Hog and assume the play is anti-capitalist?
Big Hog represents something profound about the compromises that we make in the process of civilizing ourselves. It asks questions about what makes us human.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW; through March 11, $20-$67.50; 202-393-3939. (Gallery Place)

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Marc Silver | February 23, 2012