The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
By Bruce T. Paddock
The play might best be thought of as an original piece set in Du Maurier's world. Authors are now setting novels in Tom Clancy's and Ian Fleming's and Arthur Conan Doyle's worlds, but The Birds is even farther removed from its source, as it shares neither setting nor characters with the original story.
In McPherson's tale, Diane and Nat are two middle-aged strangers taking shelter together in an abandoned lakeside cottage. Between bird attacks, which come and go with the high tides, they forage for food and other necessities. Early on, they take in Julia, a younger woman who upsets the balance the two of them had managed to create.
Kathleen McNenny and Stevie Ray Dallimore do fine jobs as Diane and Nat. Both characters have had difficulties with personal relationships in the past and, of course, their current situation is unlike anything they, or anyone else, has faced before.
Rocco Sisto has a nice turn in one scene as an interloper from across the lake. He's probably nuts, but given the circumstances, who can blame him?
The fourth member of the cast, Sasha Diamond as Julia, is this production's standout. She inhabits the role completely, and everything she says and does is faultlessly believable. Every word, every gesture, every expression lets us see what's going on inside Julia's head.
It could fairly be said that the birds should be considered members of the cast as well. After all, everything the human characters do is in response to the birds' relentless, threatening presence. You'd think that would be hard to carry off in a stage production, as several hundred highly trained birds are probably quite hard to come by.
And yet, the birds are there. The audience, like the characters, is always aware of their presence, thanks to the work of sound designer David Thomas. The squawks and cries, the scratching and pecking, the footsteps on the roof and the breaking glass will have your skin crawling throughout each scene. Without these sounds, it would have been a different play entirely.
Since The Birds is about what happens to three people who are forced to live in constant proximity with each other. It could almost have been set in Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap's snowed-in manor house, except for the fact that the characters' isolation isn't temporary. As in Sartre's No Exit, the life they knew has ceased to exist. The play could have been any post-apocalyptic setting; McPherson chose Du Maurier's.
In retrospect, I'm not sure that the destruction of the world came across as strongly as it might have. I don't know whether to lay this at the feet of the actors or of director and BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd; but while the people on stage are terrified of being killed or starving to death, and each one reacts to the pressures applied by the other two, one never really gets the sense from them that everything they ever knew is gone. They talk about it now and again, but whatever emotions that would provoke— despair, giddiness, panic, hopelessness, freedom— are never really apparent.
Still, my complaint is a quibble. While the show was going on, the actors, the script, and those damned birds kept me thoroughly engrossed.
Editor's note: For a review of another production of McPherson's take on the story go here
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The Birds by Conor McPherson
Directed by Julianne Boyd
Cast: Stevie Ray Dallimore (Nat) Sasha Diamond (Julia) Kathleen McNenny (Diane) Rocco Sisto (Tierney)
Scenic design: David M. Barber
Lighting design: Brian Tovar
Costume design: Elivia Bovenzi
Sound design: David Thomas
Stage Manager: Michael Andrew Rodgers
Running Time: Ninety minutes; no intermission Barrington Stage Company St. Germain Stage; 36 Linden St, Pittsfield, MA
From 6/15/17; opening 6/18/17; closing 7/8/17
Reviewed by Bruce T. Paddock at June 18 performance
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