BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable piece of theater in a cool space. The actors are all good and the play is well written.
The Power of Birds is a little play with a lot to say. A goal-driven Mom packs up her two kids and her hippie mother-in-law and flies the coop to another state in order to get away from her husband who has an OCD thing about birds and finds them more interesting than his own family. For some members of the family, the migration is a new beginning while others find it difficult to leave their lives behind. With five actors who all get a chance to shine, tight direction, a beautiful light and sound design, the production finds success with Robin Rice Lichtig's new play.
Zoe (Emma Galvin) hates the idea of leaving home and worries that her father won't be able to find them again, which is exactly the point as far as Mom (Annie McGovern) is concerned. She visits her father via daydreams and wants to connect with him so badly that she feels and hears a pain in her heart. Galvin plays the role as a pouty, stompy, angst-ridden twelve-year-old but makes the most of the role when she drops the preteen physicality. When she sings a bit of Blackbird, her honesty and depth come pouring out. And later, in a scene with her grandmother where they discuss their own hopes and dreams, she again brings it down a notch and makes it the best scene in the play. Her brother Charlie (played by real life brother Noah Galvin) welcomes the move as a chance to repair his computer nerd image and he had me rolling on the floor laughing. The guy is funny and unique with his delivery and timing and every one of his scenes is completely enjoyable. His marijuana experimentation scene gets the biggest laughs of the night. OMG! McGovern hits the right notes as the mom full of high five's and platitudes but her character seems out of a sitcom. It's not until a scene where she is honest about her own dreams that she becomes believable. With this admission, she finally connects with her daughter when they both realize that sometimes they want things so badly that they can convince themselves that it's real. Margot Avery takes the role of the Grandmother Lily and makes her more than a stereotype. She is wise and funny and grounds the show with her knowing look and seen-it-all attitude.
Director Elizabeth Bunnell takes full advantage of the sprawling space. She uses the actors to simulate the sound of rain, birds and crowds and when accompanied with the sound design makes for very effective moments. Scenes change smoothly as actors move to the background but maintain their presence in the scene. The show moves quickly and I was constantly engaged.
As for the play itself, it deals with a lot of issues. Lily is struggling with the loss of her husband and Zoe with the loss of her father, but we also hear about man's invasion of nature and a lot of bird references. I think it is a take on our place in the world and how we constantly must adapt in order to be happy. Maybe the ending of the show went a bit over my head as Lily seems to be turning into a bird. She is struggling to get closer to the sunset in order to communicate with her dead husband, so maybe it is a case of wanting something so badly that it becomes real. Either way, the ending is sweet and touching. The family has embraced the migration to their new home and are determined to make the most of their new future. I liked the show a lot. There are many moments that made me happy I get to see theater...I think you will like it too.
(The Power of Birds runs through March 13th the Milagro Theater at the CSV Education & Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk between Rivington & Delancey. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $18 and are available at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800.838.3006. For more show info visit threegracestheater.org.)