Over the years, I have been quite impressed by the work of the Griffin Theatre Company. I know that they have earned countless Jeff Awards for their work, but I have to say that their newest production , the Chicago Premiere of “The Birds” is one that might have been exactly that, for the birds. While the set is wonderful (Greg Pinsoneault) and the direction smooth (Kevin Kingston), it is probably the script (Conor McPherson) that I found lacking. The actors were powerful, but the story appears to have lost its way with me.
Based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier, the one that Alfred Hitchcock developed his movie (same name) of the early 1960’s on, this is a different story with the same activity. It is the birds that are attacking the people. We are in New England and as the play opens, we are in a lake house. There is a woman, Diane (played to perfection by Jodi Kingsley) who is writing in her diary. On the couch, a man lays prostrate . He is ill or at least we are told he is. Nat (deftly handled by Keith Neagle) and Diane have taken refuge from the attacks by the birds in this abandoned house. We are not told why the birds are attacking or just how this all began. At least I did not find clarity in this.
They have eaten all of the food left in this home and each day, Nat is able to leave the house and seek food elsewhere. Again, why do the birds stop the attacks. never explained. Along the way, they do pick up another survivor, Julia (a strong performance by Emily Nichelson) who has survived and needs refuge, and is taken in by this pair of survivors. They are now a family. Julia is younger and strong and she does find new sources of food along the way.
During her stay, we also see a bit of a romance between her and Nat, but we never learn why Nat never tried to get closer to Diane, who we know does have a child, but no relationship with her.. The only other character is Tierney (David Krajecki) who is the farmer whose house Julia has been stealing food from. The tension between the two women over the survival of all three is where I also found myself confused. They all fear the outside birds that are attacking as well as the fear of starving and being alone with no one to communicate with, but the story takes us on side tracks.Not wanting to reveal any of the little inner stories, I will only say that there is more to one story than meets the eye.
If the birds only attack at high tide, are they silent and dormant at other times? If they are, why not escape during the quiet periods? If they were to get away from the area of water, would the birds follow them or would they be free? Are “The Birds” attacking the world, or just the New England Coastal area where they are struggling to stay alive? There are just so many unanswered questions that even three solid performances cannot answer, that I am forced to say that this production did not meet the expectations of this viewer based on my previous experiences with this theater company. FYI- this story is not anywhere near the movie rendition and while there are some beautiful moments of tension, I did not feel the same type of excitement that I did back 50 years ago.
You be the judge! “The Birds” will continue at Theater Wit through July 19th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are only $35 (open seating) students and seniors $30 and can be purchased by calling 773-975-8150 or at the box office 1229 West Belmont Avenue or online at www.theaterwit.org. Street parking is available (some metered some not) and valet parking is in front of the theater. You can also park at Cooper’s where you can enjoy a great and affordable dinner. Try the brisket- smashing.
The show is 90 minutes, no intermission. To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com,