Review: Mosaic Theater's BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA a Subtle, Moving Testament to Our Times

One of the unexpected pleasures of our time in lockdown has been the discovery of the outdoors.

By: Nov. 01, 2021
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Review:  Mosaic Theater's BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA a Subtle, Moving Testament to Our Times

One of the unexpected pleasures of our time in lockdown has been the discovery of the outdoors. Gyms are closed, parties not an option, but walks are free. And if you put out a feeder, you get to know the wide variety of feathered creatures that routinely pass through our area. That many of us spend our days working from home, looking out the window ever so often, only intensifies that relationship we are somehow beginning to develop with them.

So it comes as a surprise, and a really pleasant one, to find myself seated in a theatre at the Atlas in Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2 years, listening to familiar bird calls, and glancing at the leaves on the floor of Mosaic Theater's production of Anna Ouyang Moench's Birds of North America. Alexa Ross' set design creates an ambiance that is remarkably familiar, given our recent history-complete with symbolic Owl feathers ranged on the upstage wall of this thrust stage. And Brittany Shemuga's lights manage to capture that unique, angular light that engulfs us on November days.

The scenes in Birds unfold over a decade in the life of father and daughter, marked by accumulating leaves and, of course, accumulating tensions, as each of them face moments of crushing disappointment, binoculars in hand, alternately consoling and infuriating each other, when not trying to help each other find that new arrival in the neighbor's tree. David Lamont Wilson's sound design-featuring contemporary woodwind motifs to mark the passage of time-are memorable and match the emotional highs and lows of the action here.

As John, David Bryan Jackson embodies the frustrations of a grown man, with adult children, still trying to find his way; his dreams of making a positive contribution to the world take flight, and then crash, leaving him with little to do other than stand in his suburban back yard, tracking the progress of the local birds, and becoming obsessed with their welfare (outdoor pet cat owners, be advised; you'll come in for some grief here). Moench writes his character deftly, showing how the traditional 'suck it up' male mentality makes it impossible for John to reach out to his daughter, Caitlyn, even when she is at her most emphathetic.

Regina Aquino, meanwhile, covers a remarkable emotional range as Caitlyn-first as a daughter, enduring her dad's righteous lectures with the occasional eye-roll. But as the young professional emerges, we also watch as her life and her choices come into question; and Caitlyn has to learn how to defend herself, eventually realizing some differences-especially with one's own family-are simply irreconcilable. The rage and bitterness is felt on both sides, and even the birds themselves fall victim to their family fight.

Moench's writing is subtle, and can dig deeply; time spent a back yard, with all the life changes that a decade can have in any family, is time movingly spent here. Director Serge Seiden works with a light touch, and it gives his actors the freedom to create a world quite familiar, in more ways than one.

Production Photo: Regina Aquino as Caitlyn and David Bryan Jackson as John. Photo by Chris Banks.

How To Get Tickets

Running Time: 90 minutes without Intermission.

Birds of North America runs October 27-November 21 at the Atlas Performing Arts center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. For tickets, visit http://www.mosaictheater.org/ or call the Atlas box office at 202-399-7993.



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