REVIEW OF THE HUMMINGBIRD WARS
By Carter Lewis
Directed by Judy Navas
Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Ives Hall, Studio 76
RUN: November 5-15, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
November 6, 2015
Hummingbirds are in constant danger of starvation, always looking for their next meal to stay alive. This play delves into the state of society in America today—a place where young people working two jobs cannot afford a studio apartment, and when faced with a life-threatening illness the terrifying part is inevitable financial crisis, not the illness itself. The cost of needed prescription drugs is horrifying, even with insurance, and nearly 42% of bankruptcies are a result of medical expenses. Living is a struggle to survive, but there is no tangible enemy to fight but ourselves. The system is so firmly in place that we dissolve within it, incapable of changing our fate. The Hummingbird Wars examines the reactions of a small family.
The father (David O’Connell) is not fully present, pulled down by PTSD, spending hours standing outside the house looking in the window—physically there but miles away. His son is clever, but tormented at school, degraded by standardized education. Portrayed to brilliant effect by Carlos Rodriguez, the teenager acts out despite having a good heart. His sister Kate (Rosemarie Kingfisher) begins full of hope and love, but is slowly beaten down by harsh reality, cocooning inside herself and clinging to the arts as a life raft, cutting herself off from the world. In a stunning performance, Renee Hardin as Tracey ricochets in wild mood swings caused by prescriptions for her respiratory illness. In brief lucid moments, she laments the loss of her ability to love.
Liam Robertson’s sound design is another character in the play, from ticking clocks and the microwave to gunshots and bulldozers. The soundscape is masterful and adds a tactile sensation to an already intimate theatre. As the family’s situation degrades, the house follows suit, cracking and flooding until it builds to a spectacular conclusion. This is not a production for the faint of heart, there are guns, blood, and a depressing accuracy to the propounded theories of this country’s current state. The writing is poetic and thought provoking, backed by an excellent cast.
The Hummingbird Wars is well worth a journey into the underbelly of Ives Hall.