We all strive to be heroic, and according to Robert Askins’s P.S. Jones and the Frozen City, anyone can be a just that—even if your name is Pig Shit.
Yes, that’s right. The initials of the title character in TerraNova Collective’s self-aware comic-book-style play at the New Ohio Theatre stand for Pig Shit Jones (Joe Paulik). He’s an “aw, shucks” kind of guy who works as a hog farmer—his sole job is shoveling pig crap in the barn. The story begins in a post-apocalyptic world, just as his charismatic and cocky brother Benjamin (Preston Martin) is leaving the rural landscape for a grander life. Benjamin has been swept up by the Great Glass Spider (Sofia Jean Gomez) to become the new government figurehead of the Frozen City, an Emerald City-esque place made completely out of glass that holds the wealthy.
After Benjamin leaves, Pig Shit returns to his work, and in one of his steaming piles, he discovers a giant, Hulk-like green hand. After he kicks it around on the ground for a minute, he’s joined by the ghost of Gunslinger (Steven Rishard), who was imprisoned inside the fist. Pig Shit is terrified, but the cowboy calms him and reveals the true story of the Great Glass Spider—that she’s evil (surprise!), imprisoned him years ago, and must be stopped. Pig Shit is enlisted, and the two (plus the hand) venture out to save the world.
The 80 minutes of P.S. Jones and the Frozen City don’t move quite at the speed you want, despite director Jose Zayas’s production being full of explosive and dynamic scenes. Ryan O’Gara’s light design is flashy and vibrant, which intertwines delightfully with Jason Simms’s colorful cartoon scene design and atmospheric video projections by Alex Koch and David Tennent. Paulik’s performance is charming and sweet, and E. Calvin Ahn does a fantastic job choreographing the wild, sometimes-slow-motion stage fights. But the overbusy script fails to hold your attention, despite the show’s bells and whistles. The “saving the world falls on an unlikely but lovable goofball” schtick is a tired cliché. Without the aesthetics, the story offers little substance—and that’s unfortunately not enough to save this play’s world.