Adapted from the short story
by Daphne du Maurier
Directed by Kevin Kingston
Produced by Griffin Theatre Company
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Lack of tension and low expectation dulls apocalyptic story
McPherson’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s short story, “The Birds”, isn’t like Hitchcock’s film nor is it the recent campy Hell in a Handbag’s recently revived The Birds. This tame, dull dramatic version is low on suspense and long on survival.
In director Kevin Kingston’s production, we meet four survivors struggling to live with the end of the world looming after the world’s birds attack all living creatures wiping out the world’s people. Diane (Jodi Kingsley), a middle aged woman is nursing Nat (Keith Neagle), a 30something indi man suffering from a fever. The two are living in a New England beach house they invaded to escape the wrath of the birds who seem to only attack at high tide. These two quickly form a survival bond based on mutual trust. The house they crash in is a well-worn home (terrific set design by Greg Pinsoneault) that suits them nicely if it only had a supply of food.
We witness their problems as they lose contact with the outside world when all radio broadcasts stop. They don’t seem too worried since food and shelter from the birds occupies their time. The suspense is more about what will happen next minute than a sense of doom or desperation that the world is ending. You’d think that if the end of the world was upon these folks, they’d act more fatalistic? But Diane and Nat are mostly calm with normal moods and foibles. The are quite composed. Once the super-survivor teen girl Julia (Emily Nichelson) arrives at the house, things get complicated as the third person adds energy and more of a sense of what perils away the group.
This new dynamic allows Nat and Julia to have a fling while Julia and Diane develop a mother-daughter relationship. Diane’s dark personality beneath her sweet outwardly appearance is expressed in her verbalized spoken diary narration. But still an amazing lack of impending doom dilutes the inter-personal dynamic. Even the visit from the neighbor Tierney (David Krajecki) only spooks Diane somewhat. This pill-popping man seeks Diane’s companionship that is quickly rejected by her despite his boost that he has a large food supply, meds and survival items.
Much of The Birds’ tension is from the movement and sounds of the hovering avian (sound effects by Stephen Ptacek). The actions by the characters here are mundane, predictable and much too complacent. Talks about the bible while listening to a tape of mellow Chopin nocturnes give this show a non-threatening atmosphere. Lacking here is any sense of terror as we see that the birds are contained outside and the group still has some food. They don’t seem to be worried about impending doom; there is no sense of urgency. The characters don’t seem to change as they plod through their survival rituals in a matter-of-fact optimistic manner. The lack of emotional involvement by the characters of any extreme gives this apocalyptic story a dull numbing atmosphere. I’m still waiting birds to attack. The actors did fine with what they had to work with. I don’t think director Kevin Kingdton created enough tension, suspense and sense of doom to sustain this story.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 14, 2015
For more info checkout The Birds page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $35, $30 students/seniors, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission, through July 19, 2015