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BWW Review: THE BIRDS are flocking funny at Classical Theatre Company

THE BIRDS by Aristophanes first made its debut in 414 BC where it came in second in a play competition in City Dionysia. Well over two thousand years later Houston's Classical Theatre Company has turned the Greek comedy into a political spoof with the same aesthetics as a Marx Brothers movie guest directed by John Waters. It's charmingly adolescent, and full of cock and pecker jokes which feature prominently in this lark of a piece. Who knew Greek comedy could be so broad and bawdy? There are large strap on phalluses, Bob Dylan tributes, and even a marriage to a latex love doll before the final blackout.

Pisthetarius (Luis Galindo) and Euelpides (Julia Traber) are fleeing from Athens and seeking out a place to live free from oppressive laws and out of control politics. The two long for a paradise where they can thrive away from the tyranny of their fellow citizens. They are guided by birds to an area where a man has turned into a giant somewhat feathered creature named Hoopoe (Carl Masterson). He leads a flock of crazy winged characters played by Greg Cote, Lindsay Ehrhardt, Jovan Jackson, Courtney Lomelo, Ben McLaughlin, and Lyndsay Sweeney. Pisthetarius and Euelpides convince the birds to let them live with them, and guide them to create a city in the clouds where they can "lord over man" and also control the gods in the process. All is fine until they realize they have created just the kind of place they had fled from, and soon are assaulted by tax collectors, soothsayers, laws, and awful men seeking refuge. The gods themselves show up in the climax, and the out of control for power Pisthetarius ends up seeking a marriage to one of them.

This production has an inventive low rent feel with the bird characters created in costumes using paper mache masks and knitted old afghans. It's as if someone raided a hippie living room in the early 70s, and outfitted the cast in what they found there. The colors are all swirling psychedelics which contrast with the sky blue and desert hued set. Incidental music includes "Surfin' Bird" and other 60s psychedelic rock. There is a sense of joy and fun in the technical aspects of this one.

THE BIRDS has inspired comedic acting with Luis Galindo and Julia Traber leading the flock at the center of it all. They are big, broad, and bold in their choices throwing any subtlety aside in favor of the goof. The rest of the cast follows suit as birds of a feather who decide to punch everything up wherever they can. Courtney Lomelo and Lyndsay Sweeney deliver severe giggles with some of their bits, and on the whole everybody seems comfortable as both birds and men whenever the script calls for it. This is a talented ensemble up for the challenge of making THE BIRDS make sense to an audience today. Nobody hesitates to commit fully to the physical comedy that propels the entire show.

Overall THE BIRDS is the perfect play for the Classical Theatre Company to produce right now, because the themes and ideas are spot on in this current political climate of bird brains battling each other weekly in election debates. You'll feel a certain kinship with these men trying to escape the world of laws that makes no sense, and it's easy to find why the piece has survived all these centuries. This production is a goofy ball of kitschy fun. Director Philip Hays has inspired his cast to play and frolic through a comedic lens inspired by great political thought as filtered by thirteen year old boys. It's feels like a '60s happening with plenty of dick jokes. There are multiple birds flipped, and the whole piece is a bawdy lark.


THE BIRDS plays through April 24th at the Classical Theatre Company located at 4617 Montrose Boulevard. General admission is $25 with special pricing for seniors, students, teachers, and industry. Tickets can be acquired online at www.classicaltheatre.org


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From This Author Brett Cullum