Monday, October 31, 2016

A time to weep and a time for Birds!

There’s a man sleeping on the couch. A woman at the table writing, reading her narrative so the audience can understand what she’s thinking. She’s a bit mad, but then anyone in her situation would be--what, with the birds and all. The man sleeping suddenly wakes up, runs across the room and attempts to open the door.

But there are the sounds of birds outside. The sounds themselves aren’t menacing, but the reactions of the people make them terrifying. For the rest of the two hours, every caw and tweet becomes a cause to shiver.

“The Birds” was put on by Blood, Love, and Rhetoric last weekend at the underground Divadlo D21 in Vinohrady. As per usual, they haven’t failed to entertain. In their usual style of off-center tragedies, it’s one part melodrama and one part serious and the night we were there, Friday, it was properly pulled off.

The play centers around the same source material as the much more famous horror, “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock, which is a short story by Daphne du Maurier, set in a post-Blitz countryside. The birds have decided the Brits haven’t had enough of hell from the skies and have replaced the Luftwaffe as the cleansing chambermaids of the Isles.

Playwright Conor McPherson seems to have set the story somewhat after the one in Hitchcock’s movie. The time of raging violence has passed. Now people are held hostages in whatever shelter they can find. The birds come in at high tide and disappear at low tide, leaving some time to scavenge around and loot neighboring houses before their return. It seems a bit like life during war time.

Three strangers end up in an abandoned house, which gives it a bit of an Agatha Christie feel to it. A writer, Diane, is played by Angela Jane Kemp, who really fills the role with her almost natural creepiness. She’s able to pull off a weird Oedipus vibe that’s part motherly and part sexual, dominating over the ever-so-slightly mentally off Nat, played by Logan Hillier. Logan masterfully plays the alcoholic recovering from a nervous breakdown. The most surprising act though was the role of Julia, played by Victoria Hogan. Her weird and peppy, Bible-obsessed possibly-nymphomaniac—what Bible obsessed girls aren’t?—character makes her the perfectly insane balance to the much darker Diane, and the two have a bizarre tug-of-war over Logan’s character.

Strangely, the perhaps most normal character of the bunch is the lonely, drug-peddling farmer who lives next door, Tierney, played by Curt Matthew to the utter delight of the audience. When things have generally settled between the trio, Tierney comes in to add a bit of game-theory dementia to the plot. He promises Diane all the drugs, booze, and food she can handle if she’d just come and keep him company and riddles her with doubts of the other two.

The only problem I had with the presentation of the material I had was the set. Whereas at first, with the white walls and windows surrounding the audience, it seemed to draw you into the room with the actors like a black box might, the presence of too many bird decorations inside the rooms however detracted from the horror of the avian blood mongers. I feel as though it would have been better with no birds at all, rather than too many, allowing the sound to play the false antagonist of the plot. This is a small gripe to an otherwise good job.

Blood, Love, and Rhetoric ever manages a good show. They always choose a quirky play and have a good deal of silliness with a great deal of solemnity in their execution, nearly every time leaving you with a “huh?” factor, a feeling I always cherish. “The Birds”, directed by John Malafronte, was no exception. Check out their weekly Thursday night improv show at the Trick Bar in Malostranska Beseda, or check back at their website or facebook to see what they have next.

No comments:

Post a Comment