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BWW Reviews: THE BIRDS Captivates Bethesda


It's hard to approach THE BIRDS without thinking of the the 1963 Hitchcock classic, filled with action and fear. Conner McPherson's play, however, is based on du Maurier's short story and takes on a different effect. As performed by Quotidian Theatre Company under the direction of Jack Sbarbori, THE BIRDS takes place in one room where three people have taken shelter from these violent feathered creatures. Rather than eliciting outright fear, the play carries a tension that develops between these last survivors of what is presumably an apocalypse.

As a member of the audience there is little place to go to avoid the profound anxiety that the actors deliberately bring to the stage. Each moment of possible normalcy becomes punctuated by the terrifying thought, "How long can they survive?". The audience is not just privy to this tension but is forced to ingest it as their own. The experience, while uncomfortable, builds interest in the story and creates an intense connection between the fate of the characters and the fate of audience.

Several classic struggles are addressed: the fear of isolation, the preservation of romantic ideals, and the existential meaning of life. These themes begin to take precedent over the character's basic survival needs. After a while, the audience is lulled into a sense of safety and security in the house; however, the circumstances are anything but.

Jenny Donovan's performance as Julia had significant high points. When she first arrives at the house, without verbalization the potential for jealousy and violence becomes immediately apparent. Stephanie Mumford as Diane plays into this conflict with ease, doing what many people have been trained to do for years, pretend nothing is wrong. Nat, the man of the house, seems both unstable and aloof, and Matthew Vaky depicts this role well. Though Ted Schneider is only on stage for a short while as Tierney, his presence is well felt. Each of the actors remained in character through transitions, turning on and off lights at a natural pace, putting away blankets and clothing and tending to the house. This added to the feeling of being trapped inside the shelter, without even a moment for privacy.

The set itself had its own personality. The moment the audience enters the room, the first character is introduced. A farmhouse which might under normal circumstances seem pleasant is turned into a cage, lit by battery powered lanterns and stocked with a limited supply of food. There are few books, and there seems to be an exceptional amount of restlessness.

With several surprises and an exciting climax, this show is worth watching. The audience is left not with an immediate feeling of pleasure, but of fascination, a feeling that will leave them contemplating the plot for days afterward.

Runs July 12 - August 11 2013, at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD

For tickets and information:

ADVISORY: Recommended ages 13+ due to language

Photo credit to St. Johnn Blondell

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Nisha Tracy is currently earning her Masters in Art Therapy from George Washington University, and works both in digital and traditional media, including sculpture, printmaking, (read more...)