If you miss a line or two -- or, more likely, entire passages -- of the hour-long whirlwind titled "Disco Pigs," reading the script afterward won't help. Phonetically penned by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, the dialogue of its two characters is nearly as impenetrable on the page as it is performed.
"An da liddle baby beebas a Pork Sity take da furs bread inta da whirl," says Runt (Linda Murray), capping off the opening-scene description of the nearly simultaneous births of herself and her best friend, Pig (Dan Brick). "Owney one sec tween da girl and da boy. An us no brudder or sis or anyth!"
"Disco Pigs," the debut production of new contemporary Irish theater company Solas Nua, centers on two club-hopping 17-year-olds whose us-against-the-world bond has been unshakable since they were first introduced as liddle baby beebas. Staged in conjunction with Washington's other company highlighting Irish work, Keegan Theatre, "Disco Pigs" is playing at Keegan's Church Street NW venue on the nights its "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" is dark.
The teenagers' relationship is the main story. Pig and Runt -- born Darren and Sinead -- think each other so swell that they've developed a private language (obviously adding to their incomprehensibility) and go home only with each other after nights at the disco. Their relationship is platonic, though Pig, clearly the more immature of the two, is beginning to dream of the romance he assumes is inevitable. Runt also senses that their dynamic is about to change, though her instinct is to pull away from their relationship.
Both "Beauty Queen" and "Disco Pigs" contain a lot of yelling, but whereas the former's bluster comes from deep-seated bitterness, the cranked volume of "Disco Pigs" is the result of pure youthful exuberance. To say that Murray and Brick, dressed in layers of tattered punk-rock clothes, give energetic performances is like describing their thick-tongued dialect as a mere brogue: They dance, jump around, get down on all fours and generally throb with manic vigor, all the while attempting to project each chunky line seemingly back to its country of origin.
Granted, it's not a relaxing hour. But even if you don't always understand what the actors are hollering, you may be surprised at the wallop of emotion their performances nevertheless provide. As Runt ever so slightly matures during the pair's 17th year together, Murray makes her sadness over their changing relationship palpable. And Brick's Pig, always seeming to be not quite right in the head whenever he speaks of Runt as his everything, exposes a disturbed and violent side when he finally realizes what's happening.
With such outsize performances, director Eric Lucas wisely decided to keep the rest of the production simple, with only a black backdrop adorning the stage and a strobe light and electronica occasionally conjuring a disco. Though most audience members will be grateful for "Disco Pigs' " 60-minute running time, few will argue that this cryptic, bare-bones, but ultimately affecting work represents a stellar piece of theater.
Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh. Directed by Eric Lucas. Costumes, Billy Maloy; lighting, Dan Martin; sound, David Crandall. Approximately 60 minutes. Through July 27 at Church Street Theater, 1742 Church St. NW. Call 202-595-1760 or visit www.solasnua.org.