Hub Theatre Birds of a FeatherBy Michael Clark • Jul 19th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
John Swazye Theatre, Fairfax, VA
Through August 7th
2:00 with one intermission
$25/$15 Seniors and Students
Reviewed July 15th, 2011
The Hub Theatre is closing out their third season with the world première of Marc Acito’s Birds of a Feather, a comedy about relationships. Most of the characters in the play are birds, either penguins or hawks, but a few human relationships are explored as well.
The birds in the play are based on real-life events. The two penguins, Roy and Silo, were male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. The two penguins tried to hatch a rock, and were eventually given an egg by a zookeeper. The two hawks, Pale Male and Lola, are red-tailed hawks living in a nest located on the ledge of a swanky 5th Avenue residential building. We also hear the tale of the zookeeper’s disastrous relationships and how she is affected by the birds that she cares for and about. There are also various other people involved, such as Paula Zahn, a few innocent bystanders, a gaggle of school girls, and a chick.
All four performers (Dan Crane, Matt Dewberry, Eric Messner, and Jjana Valentiner) were wonderful. They switched characters at the drop of a hat (literally in a few scenes). Crane and Dewberry were hilarious as both avian couples. Their bickering and support were very realistic, yet each couple was quite different from the other. Messner excelled as he changed from businessman to innocent schlub. Valentiner made her characters very realistic, with exasperation and surprise, as well as frustration and anger.
Robbie Hayes’ set and projections was wonderful. A raised platform was connected to the floor level by a series of steps which were squared at the top, but jagged as you got closer to the ground. Was it a jigsaw puzzle representing life’s struggles? Was it mimicking the ice of the Antarctic? Was it a broken heart? It was a great design. And the upstage wall of the playing area was made up of a series of square panels hanging from chains. Videos were projected against the wall, with black spaces in the video so that the projection would not go through the wall backstage. I generally do not like the use of projections, but in this instance the projections definitely added to the feel of the show and weren’t a crutch. Debra Kim Sivigny’s costumes were marvelous. Actors easily and quickly changed from hawk to penguin, zookeeper to newscaster, businessman to nerd.
Marc Acito’s script flowed well, and didn’t become preachy or condescending. There were several references to 9/11 which were a bit jarring. Those scenes threatened to pull a viewer out of the play into their own memories of the horrors of that day. Is it too soon to incorporate 9/11 into a play as a plot point?
Other than the 9/11 references, Birds of a Feather was a great production.
From the Artistic Director
Marc Acito and I were meant to meet. It had to happen because we were both following the same story, and we are both in theatre, and as small as our is, it was inevitable. I read about Roy and Silo years ago, back when And Tango Makes Three was pulled from the libraries where I live. When scouting new work for Hub I ran across a description of Birds of a Feather. Because penguins, and in particular, these penguins, are near and dear to my heart I reached out to Marc immediately. And now we find ourselves here, years after these stories were news, at the theatre. What I love best about Birds of a Feather is not its controversy or its statement about nature versus nurture. I chose it because it is a love story. It is a love story that shows us the complexities of relationships that go far beyond what it is to fall in love, but rather what it takes to stay in love. It lights upon passion, familiarity, marital struggles, raising children, estrangement and reconnecting. Pale Male, Lola, Roy, Silo and Tango’s stories are true. It’s too crazy not to be-except of course, birds can’t talk.
Photos by C. Stanley Photography
- Silo, Lola, and others: Dan Crane
- Roy, Pale Male, and others: Matt Dewberry
- Birder, Richard Cohen, and others: Eric Messner
- Zookeeper and Paula Zahn: Jjana Valentiner
- Stage Manager: Eric Arnold
- Movement Coach: Izumi Ashizawa
- Lighting Designer: Andrew Cissna
- Scenic and Projections Designer: Robbie Hayes
- Associate Scenic Design, Props: Patrick Lord
- Producer: Helen Pafumi
- Director: Shirley Serotsky
- Technical Director: James Shroyer
- Costume Designer: Debra Kim Sivigny
- Sound Designer: Veronika Vorel
- Assistant Stage Manager: Devin Wein
- Light Board Operator: Jackie Reed
- Assistant to the Director: Molly Dickerson
- Ms. Valentiner’s Hair Design: David McCarthy
Disclaimer: Hub Theatre provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7032.