|Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Tony Naumovski, and Antoinette LaVecchia Photo: Carol Rosegg
By Conor McPherson (based on the story by Daphne duMaurier)
Directed by Stefan Dzeparoski
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.
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.
The design team includes Konstantin Roth (set design); Kia Rogers (lighting design); Kate R. Mincer (costume design).
-- God's name taken in vain