Bird in Magic Rain with Tears

John Fredriksen seems like an odd center for a play revolving around a teenage HIV-positive prostitute, a multi-media artist who is grieving for her recently deceased son and a cuckolding businessman with terminal cancer. After all, Fredriksen is an oil tanker and shipping tycoon who is one of the richest men on Earth. He’s also the centerpiece of Bird in Magic Rain with Tears, which appears at the Kennedy Center as part of the Nordic Cool Festival

Lucas (Huy Le Vo) is a 14-year-old boy, arguably a drug addict, a prostitute and an orphan twice over. Brought to Norway after his  father is killed in a tanker explosion, he is quickly abandoned by his new parents and takes to life on the streets where he learns he can make up to $5,000 a night working as a prostitute. He uses that money to buy the cocaine that helps power his late night YouTube rants about everything from having HIV (which he finds to often be a boost to his chosen profession) to becoming first convinced and then obsessed that his father was killed due to unsavory shipping practices employed by Fredriksen.

Bird in Magic Rain with Tears by Winter Guests, part of the Nordic Cool Festival

Bird in Magic Rain with Tears by Winter Guests, part of the Nordic Cool Festival

He discovers that Fredriksen shipped oil through the Persian during the Gulf War by reading his biography, which he gained from Patrick (Andrew Wale), a middle-aged businessman who vaguely specializes in embezzlement and fraud and is dying of a terminal brain disorder, presumably cancer. The unhappily married jetsetter begins reaching outside his marriage to find fulfilling love, and he is convinced he’s found it in Lucas, albeit at a stiff price.

Patrick received the copy of the Fredriksen biography from Sophie (Yvonne Øyen), a young, single conceptual artist who is grieving over the death of her 5-year-old son. Sophie creates multi-media pieces, and during the course of the play, all three become intertwined.

The play itself offers a unique structure, both in set and plot. The set itself is nothing but two movable white walls that spin on a central axis. Manipulating these leads to a variety of geometric sets, though there are no real props, save for Lucas’s MacBook, which he uses to post his YouTube videos. Sophie also has a video camera, which she uses to film confessionals from Lucas and Patrick throughout the play. As she does, the video shows up in real time on one of the white walls.

The story is one of longing. Sophie for something to “fill time” after the loss of her son, a solace she only finds in art (though she refuses to call herself an artist). Patrick for the sort of love Sophie shared with her deceased son. Lucas for the father he never knew. Of course, this is where the confusion sets in. Patrick pays Lucas for that love, and Lucas likely sees Patrick as somewhat of a father figure, even if he is given the man “the boyfriend experience.”

This story plays out between soliloquies that directly address the audience, Sophie’s filmed confessionals, Lucas’s YouTube videos, instant messaging chats and any number of multimedia interludes. The direction of the play, offered by Alan Lucien Øyen, remains a bit more interesting than the plot itself. The set and multimedia lend a new, intriguing aspect to storytelling on stage.

The Nordic Cool Festival
February 19 – March 17, 2013
The Kennedy Center
2700 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20566
Free and ticketed events
Mondays thru Sundays
Details and tickets
Sadly, the plot doesn’t quite live up to this innovation. Most conversations between the characters take a philosophical tangent, ranging from interesting (Sophie claims, “A fact is a widely agreed upon opinion; the truth is the story with the most followers” and Lucas dispassionately claims “There’s always someone who can take you down.”) to the mundanely cliché (Sophie: “Most of the time, the journey is the reason to travel”) to the cartoonishly self-aware (Sophie. when Patrick visits her for the first time:  “Excuse the mess. I’ve been busy,” then pauses and continues, “I don’t know why I said that. I don’t care.” This launches into a discussion of our social attitudes).

It isn’t so much that these points aren’t interesting. Rather, there wasn’t much new philosophy herein, and often the point strayed far from the extremely real and incredibly human conflicts our characters were going through.

It would have been nice to focus a little more on these characters’ stories rather than their ideas. Regardless, this is an innovative, unique piece of theatre. It’s one any theatregoer will walk away from pleased, if not a bit puzzled.

This performance has closed.

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Bird in Magic Rain with Tears . Written by Alan Øyen and Andrew Wale . Directed by Alan Øyen . Video and Set Design by Martin Flack and Alan Lucien Øyen . Lighting Design by Torkel Skjærven . Stage Manager is Andrew Stoffel . Produced by Winter Guests at The Kennedy Center . Reviewed by Travis M. Andrews.

 

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