Expect lots of pondering and creepy thrills in this chilling version of the Daphne du Maurier tale of killer birds and society’s reactions to its own potential demise.
Stripped of Hitchcock’s shocking visuals, the theatrical version must rely on old fashioned story telling, and who better to tell a tale than an Irishman, namely Conor McPherson of Seafarer and Shining City fame. And oh what a tale he tells.
Even without a bird in sight, the characters’ terrified reactions and descriptions of what they’ve seen outside the temporary haven farmhouse says enough. Plus, terrific sound effects from designer Ed Moser start with mild innocent chirps and tweets, (the Original meaning!), then as the story unfolds, the lower decibel levels become more ominous, and periodic thumps bring the winged creatures into our collective reality.
Stephanie Mumford is sublime as Diane, first seen focused, fiddling with the dial and antennae on the battery powered radio to get reception, the only source of information and news she has. Her every motion is attuned to her character’s motives as she tends to the weak and fading radio frequency.
Mumford is well matched by Matthew Vaky as Nat, a bewildered survivor who was knocked nearly unconscious by the mean spirited flock resulting in early delusions blending his past into the present.
Once Diane has nurtured him back from his avian assault, they share their background stories of unrequited love and a dissolved marriage, and then settle into day-to-day routines as they grow to trust each other. It’s a wary undertaking, especially after Nat shares that his ex-wife moved to have him committed — Mumford’s Diane provides some nifty reactions to That bit of news.
The two are comfortable with each other and fall into a daily rhythm, looking out for each other, venturing out at high tide when the birds migrate away from the terrain, foraging for provisions.
Closes August 11, 2013
Quotidian Theatre at
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
2 hours with no intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
As the days turn into weeks, Nat and Julia head out to find more provisions, and a rifle toting farmer, Ted Schneider, dressed in apocalyptic protective gear, enters, offering Diane friendly “companionship.” He has watched them from across the field, knows everybody’s comings and goings, and more, suddenly leaving Diane with doubts about her comrades. When the two return from their excursion, the tables have turned and survivor mode truly sets in, proving that human interaction is as riveting as eyeball plucking crows.
This theatrical version of the well-known classic is a fascinating portrayal of alliance and allegiance when the end of the world seems ominously near, and survival is all that matters. Fine direction by Jack Sbarbori is challenged by the multiple scene changes needed to depict the passage of time. That quibble aside, Quotidian Theatre knows how to work a nuance, and the production generally hits the mark, a testament for this D.C. area premiere that will still make you look twice at birds gathering along telephone wires.
The Birds . Written by Conor McPherson, from the short story by Daphne Du Maurier . Directed by Jack Sbarbori . Featuring Jenny Donovan, Stephanie Mumford, Ted Schneider, and Matthew Vaky . Produced by Quotidian Theatre . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.