The Little Pony

The Little Pony
Reviewer's Rating

After international success, Paco Bezerra’s The Little Pony arrives in New York for its American debut a decade after it was first put to paper. Set entirely in a married couple’s living room, it has found the perfect venue at Torn Page, a cozy Chelsea townhouse once the home of legendary actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page which now operates as a unique theater space. Despite the hallowed venue, the event space is sparsely furnished with just a pair of chairs and a pair of tables that start off right next to each other and slowly move to opposite ends of the room as the couple’s arguing edges closer to an eventual breaking point. 

The Little Pony is an intensely intimate, heavy piece of work that centers on the struggles of Timmy, the ten-year-old child of parents Irene and Daniel. But Timmy, despite arguably being the main character, is never once seen or heard from. Every scene is an evening conversation between Timmy’s parents about the increasingly upsetting struggles their child is having at school. Irene (Marissa Ghavami) has a demanding nine-to-five and Daniel (Montgomery Sutton) drives a cab at night, so they’re always catching each other at opposite ends of the other’s schedule. It also quickly becomes clear that Irene is performing a lot of invisible labor without really having the time for it, and that Daniel is well-meaning but oblivious and forgetful. This might explain some of their ongoing disconnectedness, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that there are deeper clashes at the heart of it. 

Timmy is being bullied relentlessly in school, and the focus of the brutality seems to center on his My Little Pony backpack. The school covertly calls a meeting with the parents months after the bullying begins to ban the backpack from the school. Irene and Daniel immediately take different approaches to this command. Accompanied by a projection of little Timmy (Helix Logan) framed like a photograph on the wall behind them, the couple discuss Timmy’s dismissal by the administration and abuse by the other schoolchildren ad nauseam while skirting around the subject of his personal expression and identity. As quickly becomes clear, none of these conversations involve asking Timmy’s opinion on any of it. Throughout it all Luke Cissell’s discordant soundtrack keeps us firmly in a state of discomfort as the lives of the family deteriorate.

Marissa Ghavami embodies Irene’s outward practicality and inner turmoil with an aching sadness. Before the play concludes they deliver several sweeping emotional monologues that nearly stop the breath in the room. Montgomery Sutton plays Daniel with a dangerous combination of passion and recklessness that perfectly offsets Irene, but his inner turmoil shines through just the same. Irene is desperately trying to patch the cracks of the situation while ignoring the core issue, while Daniel gets too caught up in an abstract sense of justice (not to mention vengeance) to see what his son might actually need. 

Inspired by the 2014 news stories about American schoolchildren Grayson Bruce and Michael Morones, The Little Pony is more relevant than ever. The play is a poignant, thought-provoking piece, especially as we watch anti-trans legislation ramp up around the country at a terrifying rate. It’s a reminder that wholly imperfect people can make a difference just by stopping to listen, and with its ambiguous ending, it leaves us with the hope that even small changes can make a big difference.

By Paco Bezerra

Translated from the original Spanish by Marion Peter Holt

Directed by Kimi Ramírez

Music by Luke Cissell

Cast: Marissa Ghavami, Montgomery Sutton

Run time: 75 min, no intermission

Runs through 23 March

Torn Page