By Conor McPherson; Directed by Stefan Dzeparoski
Produced by Birdland Theatre
Part of Origin's 1st Irish Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.1.16
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Ken Kaissar on 9.18.16
Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Tony Naumovski, and Antoinette LaVecchia in The Birds. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: A short story adaptation that is more intellectually stimulating than suspense-inducing.
Conor McPherson’s The Birds is based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, not Hitchcock’s famous film. If you’re looking for a stage adaption of the suspense-driven movie, you won’t find a trace of it here. That’s both a plus and a minus. The plus is that this version is much more thought-provoking. But what it gains in intellectual stimulation it loses in creepiness and suspense. This version will get your mind pumping rather than your heart rate.
The play takes place in an apocalyptic world in which birds have aggressively dominated the earth. Three unrelated characters, played by Antoinette LaVecchia, Tony Maumovski and Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, take refuge from their fine-feathered foes in an abandoned house. Now they must build their lives anew with new definitions of home and family, while they improvise their survival.
LaVeccia is the first to enter the dark theatre with nothing more than a flashlight. Her entrance demonstrates why 59E59's Theatre C is such an appropriate space for this piece: a simple black-box theater with seats arranged in an ostensibly haphazard way creating the illusion that we’re not in a theatre at all. We get to feel as though we are also trapped in this abandoned house along with the characters.
Under the direction of Stefan Dzeparoski, the production succeeds in evoking an intriguing sense of reversal between humans and birds. As the birds dominate the earth, mankind is forced to scavenge for food in a constant state of fear, strategizing every move for fear of being pecked to death by the angry—well, you get the picture. At one point, a character enters wearing a cage on his head for protection, which looks an awful lot like a man trapped in a birdcage.
Though the space is appropriate for the piece, Dzeparoski has his work cut out for him battling the limited sight lines. The theatre is arranged in the round, and I think it’s safe to say there’s not a good seat in the house. Kia Roger’s lighting design does the heavy lifting of creating a bleak apocalyptic landscape. But the strongest element in the production is Antoinette LaVecchia’s brilliant performance. She prevents the play from devolving into hysteria with her cool-headed commitment to survive.
I would have liked to feel compelled to root for the characters but since the play begins in the midst of the apocalypse, the world feels completely void of hope. We know from the word go that these characters are doomed. So how do you get an audience to hope they’re not?
(The Birds plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through October 1, 2016. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30; and Sundays at 3:30. Tickets are $20 ($14 for 59E59 members) and are available at 59E59.org or by calling 212-279-4200.)
The Birds is by Conor McPherson, based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier. Directed by Stefan Dzeparoski. Set Design is by Konstantin Roth. Video Design is by David J. Palmer. Costume Design is by Kate R. Mincer. Lighting Design is by Kia Rogers. Sound Design is by Ien Deno. Stage Manager is Robert Neapolitan.
The cast is Antoinette LaVecchia, Tony Naumovski and Mia Hutchinson-Shaw.