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Review: JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL at Atwater Village Theatre

The show is in flight through March 27

Review: JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL at Atwater Village Theatre
Andrew Thacher

Richard Bach had one of the biggest best-sellers of the early 1970s with JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, a fable about a seagull who rides the crest of the self-help craze that was sweeping the country at the time. It was such a phenomenon that it was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for 37 weeks, eventually selling more than 40 million copies. There was a film adaptation, which, while tepidly received critically and commercially, still scored two Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Legendary singer-songwriter Neil Diamond wrote and recorded the soundtrack, nabbing both a Grammy and a Golden Globe for his trouble and going double platinum here in the States.


Now the Atwater Village Theatre is launching the world premiere of the one-man show JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL: A SOLO FLIGHT, adapted and performed by Andrew Thacher and directed by Paul Millet. The story follows Jonathan, an aspirational seagull who wants to do more than simply scavenge for food, leading to his banishment from his squabble of gulls for being different. But what he originally thinks is death is really just the beginning, opening his mind and launching him on a spiritual and metaphysical odyssey in a search for the meaning of life.

Review: JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL at Atwater Village Theatre
Andrew Thacher

While the source material is fairly timeless, it's still very of its time. You can see soccer moms (or whatever they were called at the time) in the 1970s embracing this and thinking they were suddenly free thinkers without the free love and the drugs. And, hey, it probably blew some minds wide open. There's a corniness and a gentleness to it that explains its appeal to a wide swathe of people, and basing it on a seagull is the spoonful of sugar necessary to help it land, just as fairy tales are conduits of lessons for children, even if they don't know they're learning.

All of that is fine, though it does become a little too earnest at points, which is both Thacher's performance as well as the novel it's based on, even if the warnings of the trappings of materialism and conformity are universal and timeless. Thacher speaks almost like he's addressing youngsters in his sand-colored outfit (courtesy costume designer Christine Cover Ferro) while video of the ocean, space and clouds by Fritz Davis unspools behind him on tarps. That adds to the whimsy of the allegory, considering it is about avian friends. The pacing just starts to plod, the rhetoric becoming tiresome when the show ends, so it's really the perfect length at about 75 minutes.

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL is performed at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, through March 27. Tickets can be purchased here.

All photos: Eric Keitel

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