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Entertainment & Arts

Review: In ‘Pigs and Chickens,’ the IT department needs a help desk of its own

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Andy Shephard, Poonam Basu, Sharon Freedman, Anil Margsahayam, Christopher Reiling and Lizzie Peet as the staff of a tech start-up in “Pigs and Chickens”
(Peter Carrier)

Dedicated to producing new works, Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles has nurtured a mixed blessing in “Pigs and Chickens,” Marek Glinski’s premiere at the company’s Atwater Village space.

Workshopped over a few years, Glinski’s comedy was inspired by his experiences as a technical writer. Although it’s an occasionally fascinating glimpse into an exotic world, the play’s blitz of technical jargon makes us want to place an emergency call to IT.

The action is set in the cutthroat atmosphere of a tech start-up, where the staff is separated into the Pigs (the elite ranks of programmers) and the Chickens (the lowly less-thans). The Pigs are racing the clock to complete the code on Denise, an automated “empathy algorithm” that will take on all functions of a human resources department, including interviewing, hiring and firing — mainly firing.

By the time the programmers realize that they are digging their own graves with a virtual backhoe, it may be too late for these Pigs to save their bacon.

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Anil Margsahayam and Lizzie Peet
(Peter Carrier )

Director Kevin Comartin leads a lively cast spearheaded by Sharon Freedman, who plays a new Chicken named Wili, a volatile former screenwriter whose “anger issues” nuked her career and her marriage. Wili is frantically trying to regain custody of her daughter before her ex whisks her off to another state. Yet first, she must scratch for survival in this corporate barnyard. And considering that every Pig is rude, self-serving and, well, piggish, that’s a tall order.

Christopher Reiling gives a standout performance as the clueless Chris, whose Asperger’s leaves him struggling, valiantly, toward empathy. Also outstanding is Lizzie Peet as Stephanie, a fast-talking schemer with a hidden agenda for every occasion.

The able performers do their best to smooth over certain scattershot motivations and segues. Yet in its current form, Glinski’s overlong and occasionally inaccessible play could use a bit more technical support.

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♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Pigs and Chickens’

Where: EST/LA in the Atwater Village Theatre Complex, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; ends April 15

Tickets: $15-$20

Information: (818) 839-1197, https://dime.io/events/pigs-and-chickens

Running time: 2 hours

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at latimes.com/arts.


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