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Review: BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA at MOXIE Theatre

Playing at Moxie Theatre through March 5th.

By: Feb. 14, 2023
Review: BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA at MOXIE Theatre  Image
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BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA now playing at Moxie Theatre through March 5th is a moving and thoughtful show about a father and daughters relationship, and is anchored by two excellent performances.

Directed by Lisa Berger the play is set in an idyllic, wooded backyard where the audience finds John (Mike Sears) and his daughter Caitlyn (Farah Dinga). John, an avid birder is watching and noting birds that he sees while instructing Caitlyn on where to look, and on the different bird types. Told through a series of scenes over the years, we see them continuing to meet up in the yard as they try to adapt to the change happening around them and in their relationship.

John is a scientist by trade and has tried to live a life as ethically and true to his nature as possible, while also being very environmentally conscious. His hobby of birding allows him to relax while utilizing the personality traits that make him good at his job, he is super-rational, values well-thought-out decisions, and specificity is ideal.

Caitlyn is young, smart, and ambitious while trying to find her path in life. Her path doesn't seem to make much sense to John, but Caitlyn doesn't need him to understand it so much as respect her choices in the world she lives in, which is so different than the one John had at her age.

Review: BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA at MOXIE Theatre  Image

They both can discuss birds with each other, as John explains the different birds that appear. Or share commentary on family or significant others, but when a subject one of them is passionate about is broached they can quickly dig in their heels and defend their position instead of truly listening to the other.

In a compelling and nuanced performance, Sears is excellent as John, whose rationality is both a gift when working or cataloging birds and a curse as he deals with the more sensitive and emotionally turbulent moments of life. Sears uses weighted silences to say a lot, and in one heartbreaking scene reveals the tender heart under the gruff exterior.

Dinga is a worthy counterpoint to Sears as Caitlin, who wants a connection with her father but could do without the judgmental commentary on her job and life decisions. She is doing the best she can in the world today- which as a young woman is quite different than the way John interacted with it. Her emotional vulnerability is laid bare as Caitlin tries to explain an experience to John, who cannot seem to reach out in the way that she requires.

Change, and the timeliness of actions to combat or repair what that change brings, are at the heart of this story. From large-scale climate change and the environment, the changes that happen between each generation, to the more intimate ones like the clashing of personalities, with time in each scene the world fractures a bit more with the consequences of the last scene.

The scenic design by Robin Sanford Roberts provides a wooded backyard, with a scattering of trees, leaves, and a picnic table. I appreciated the clever way of storing things around the yard for quick acne changes. The lighting by Joshua Heming works well with the set and establishes different times and seasons. Sound design by Matt Lescault-Wood further defines the area with layers of bird songs, and wings in flight and builds a believable outdoor atmosphere for these characters.

Costumes by Danita Lee reflect each character's personality; John never changes from his serviceable flannel and cargo pants (with a handy pocket for his birding notebook), while Caitlin's look evolves as her circumstances change.

Written by Anna Ouyang Moench there the play doesn't answer some of the questions it raises, and while it would be nice to have some of those blank spaces filled, the play is impactful even without them.

How to Get Tickets

BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA is playing at Moxie Theatre through March 5th. For ticket and showtime information go to www.moxietheatre.com

Photo Credit: Farah Dinga and Mike Sears in Moxie Theatre's BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA photo courtesy of Moxie Theatre




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