Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: The Birds

Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Tony Naumovski, and Antoinette LaVecchia Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Birds
By Conor McPherson  (based on the story by Daphne duMaurier)
Directed by Stefan Dzeparoski 
59E59 Theaters
Through Oct. 1

What's It All About?

It's an adaptation by Conor McPherson (The Weir, Shining City) of a very creepy story by Daphne DuMarier ("Rebecca") that inspired the classic Alfred Hitchcock classic film by the same name.

The very small theater is completely fog-filled when the audience enters to find themselves captive (there is no intermission in the 90-minute presentation, and no way to leave without walking across the floor where the action takes place). Writer Diana (Antoinette LaVecchia -- from last season's stunning A View from the Bridge) is in a dark house where a naked, ranting man suddenly runs in. Turns out Neil (Tony Naumovski) is a former mental patient who has been taking shelter with Diana in the house. There's an even more frightening situation outside -- birds are on the attack. Between the feathered murder frenzy, survivors are forced to forage for food. Suddenly, human voices are heard among the squawking and a young girl, Julia (Mia Hutchinson-Shaw), joins the household, turning it upside down. A bit of mystery surrounds the girl and the circumstances of her arrival (and the food she supposedly "found.") More importantly, when she sets her eyes on Neil, a competition even more chilling than the birds outside challenges the humans' survival.

What Are the Highlights?
Director Stefan Dzeparoski  captures the eerie atmosphere and makes it feel interactive to appeal to a younger audience (there were a number of young folks in the audience, including some who talked incessantly behind me), much in the way Sleep No More, also based in part on a duMarier novel, does but minus the masks and having to walk around lost in a creepy house silently praying you will find an emergency exit so you can make a quick escape. Well, at least that was my Sleep No More experience. 

What Are the Lowlights?
The plot seems preposterous at points, particularly where these two women would find the strange and unattractive Neil desirable. I also couldn't help wondering why these folks just didn't find a way to capture a bird and eat it instead of risking their lives to go on scavenger hunts for few cans of food (and why, when they a supply of food, they didn't just bring it all back to the house instead of few cans at a time. Why would you risk having to deal with death-by-bird more times than necessary? There is time in between their attacks which are timed with the tides. Let's just say that if the survival of the human race depends on these three, I am not holding out too much hope (and then again, maybe that's the point.) Personally, I prefer McPherson's The Weir (chilling ghost story) or Shining City -- its own brand of psyychological creepy.

The fog at the beginning is really kind of overwhelming and if you are claustrophobic, this isn't the show for you.
 More Information:
The Birds flap their wings (thanks to Ien DeNio, sound design, and David J. Palmer , video design) at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th St., as part of the 1st Irish, through Saturday, Oct. 1. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 8:30 pm; and Sunday at 3:30 pm. Tickets are $20 ($14 for 59E59 members): 212- 279- 4200; www.59e59.org.

More credits:

The design team includes Konstantin Roth (set design); Kia Rogers (lighting design); Kate R. Mincer (costume design).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Nudity
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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