Review of The Birds
By Conor McPherson
Adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier
Directed by Elizabeth Craven
For tickets / schedule :
Main Stage West, Sebastopol

RUN: April 7-23, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(April 7, 2017)

Main Stage West - The Birds

Photo from Main Stage West

Bay Area residents are well aware of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, which was filmed in Bodega Bay, and while the play is set in the same world where birds flock together to attack their nemesis, humans, it is based on the work by Daphne du Maurier, where survivors join together for shelter in an abandoned New England cabin. Time jumps between each scene, strung together as snippets of reactions, often ignoring crucial pieces of information for tantalizing insights, rather than a linear plot. The anchor is Diane (Liz Jahren) a former author on the run whose sanity is faltering under the stress of constant attacks by birds, the loss of her family, and twisted love for Nat (Nick Sholley) whom she met on the road.

The Birds, while an intriguing concept, rang hollow. It is too cheerful for a thriller, rather tame to be post-apocalyptic, and melodramatic for a comedy. As a result, it feels scattered, with snippets of excellent theater, such as the entrance of the Mad Max road warrior neighbor in ornate handmade armor from costume designer and actor Anthony Shaw Abaté, exuberant delight when scavenging hoarded pound cake, and the cold-hearted actions of conniving Diane, but overall there is no connecting theme that holds the play together; it has a War of the Worlds vibe without the frightening follow through.

Characters are casual and relaxed the majority of the time, despite their situation, acting out in minor ways by jumping to radical conclusions or playing little tricks to get on each other’s nerves. For a plot that examines what happens when people begin losing their humanity and turning on each other, the cast is quite calm and upbeat with hints of unrest. Emotional moments pass by quickly, making it difficult to connect with and follow the progression of character development that leads to the rather shocking decisions made in the final act.

Liz Jahren’s Diane is poised and appears quite normal, with a proclivity for nasty journaling, and is effective in her nervous body language when Tierney appears wielding a shotgun. Julia (Rae Quintano) lounges across furniture, and is unabashedly in pursuit of Nat; she comes across as either secretive and naïve or a woman with an agenda, switching between the personas in a manner that confuses Diane, aggravating her suspicion. Nat (Nick Sholley) tries to make the best of the situation. “As long as there is kindness, there is hope,” he exclaims, convinced that the human race can be saved, and perhaps with enough people like him, it can.

Despite its lack of focus, this is an entertaining play with fascinating characters and a rich sound design by Doug Faxon—swinging shutters, howling wind, and birds tapping at the walls. For a lighthearted take on the post-apocalyptic genre with an unexpected twist at the end, The Birds is an amusing way to spend the evening.