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BWW Interviews: Mary Birdsong in ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR at Two River Theater

Absurd Person Singular will open at Two River Theater (TRT) in Red Bank on January 10th and run through February 1st. Written by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Jessica Stone, the show is a laugh-out-loud, satirical look at how three English couples deal with their relationships, social standings, and the pressures of three successive Christmas gatherings. This production is an ideal opportunity to unwind after the busy holiday season.

Mary Birdsong will have one of the starring roles as Marion in Absurd Person Singular. had the opportunity to interview Birdsong about her theatrical career and the upcoming show. Her charm and wit was an absolute pleasure.

Birdsong will star in the HBO British import series, Suburban Shootout that will begin filming this fall. Her movie credits include Made of Honor, Above Freezing among many others. And she will soon be seen in the new film, Adventureland. Birdsong has won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut with Martin Short in the musical Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. Birdsong has many television credits that include Reno 911, Ed, Welcome to New York and she has done correspondent segments for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her voice can be heard on many commercials and Birdsong also sings in the rock band, Cottonhead.

With such an impressive performance career, we wondered when Birdsong first became interested in theater. "I was never really interested in "theater" per se. I just loved pretending to be other people. And lucky for me, I found theater in high school. Now after doing film, television, and theater acting, I can honestly say that theater work is the most welcoming forum for that kind of character work."

We asked Birdsong about some of the performers who inspired her career. "That's an easy one-- Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, Ruth Draper, Tracey Ullmann, Judy Garland, John Leguizamo, Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg (the character work she did in her solo show directed by Mike Nichols was really amazing),John Belushi, Eric Bogosian, and Eddie Murphy, I could go on and on and on."

Birdsong talked about going to the theater herself. "This may get me some hate mail, but for the most part, I don't enjoy going to the theater. I much prefer entertaining other folks to having others entertain me. That said... there have been performances I will never forget because of their brilliance. Two that come to mind are Celia Weston in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Michael Cumpsty in End Of the Rainbow, who happens to be playing my husband in this production of Absurd Person Singular- lucky me! And I recently saw The Improvised Shakespeare Company while they were on tour in L.A.- UH-MAY-ZING! Oh- also the Baz Luhrman installment of For the Record in L.A. was unbelievably sexy and inspiring and beautifully directed."

Birdsong told us a little bit about the cast of Absurd Person Singular. "Brooks and I go way back. We met doing a musical workshop of the musical Palm Beach by Robert Cary and David Gursky, and for me, meeting Brooks was love at first laugh. We've been lucky enough to work together in other productions too-- in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me on Broadway, and the John Guare play Rich and Famous" at A.C.T. in San Francisco." She also commented, "The other actors are just such impressive talents, but I've never worked with any of them before this production. We had our first official rehearsal today (Brooks, Melissa, Michael and I. Liz and Scott weren't scheduled today)-- Michael has surpassed my high expectations, and I am just madly in love with Melissa and her character. She has that rare gift for making me want to laugh at and weep for a character at the same time. Can't wait to get in there with Liz and Scott tomorrow, too."

We asked Birdsong about her role as Marion in Absurd Person Singular. "All I needed to know to want to do this part was that I'd get to be British and snooty and live in the 1970s. I come from a sketch comedy background, so I don't get too deep into preparations like an ideal actor might. I tend to ask questions like, 'Can she wear a big purple hat?' But I do tend to draw on people I've encountered in real life. I'm not so much an actress as I am an impressionist. It's just that most of my impressions aren't of celebrities-- it might just be some chick I saw at a Rite-Aid."

Birdsong spoke about her TRT experience. She said "NICEST. PEOPLE. EVER! I've worked a lot of places. I've made more money doing theater, and I've made less. But this is why we do what we do- because of the passion and integrity this place has, and their commitment to making their cast feel appreciated, and welcomed, and supported. They're just amazing. It's also really fun for me because I grew up in South Jersey. I'm from Long Beach Island. My only frame of reference for Red Bank growing up was a friend of my mom's who was from there who once saved our butts by giving us a lift to Newark airport in the middle of a hurricane when our car broke down. Nice to know that Red Bank is still coming through for this Jersey Girl."

We asked Birdsong if there was anything else she wanted readers to know. "I'm currently developing a solo show I performed at Joe's Pub called "Mama Drama," with Eric Gilliland. Oh, and last night I ate an entire box of Nutter Butters. Please pray that I'll still be able to fit into my costume."

Two River Theater's production Absurd Person Singular will run from January 10th through February 1st. The theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, New Jersey. Tickets are may be purchased by visiting their web site at or by calling (732) 345-1400.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Two River Theater

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