nytheatre.com review by Scott Brooks
There is a lot going on in Birdland,
which is both written and directed by Joanne Hudson. The play opens with
a young man named Jonas Puck being interrogated and electrocuted. These
first few moments demonstrate some fun and flashy use of sound and light
and open the door to the world of doom and gloom that we are about to
August 15, 2003
Birdland takes place in a non-specific farm/bible belt section of America after a catastrophic event has led to this area becoming a police state that all the birds have left. Jonas (Luke Leonard), a post-apocalyptic Tom Joad, lives with his put-upon mother Connie (Geraldine Bartlett), who is terrified that the "Sons of Abraham" will come get them and/or find out that Jonas has some psychic powers.
All the ingredients are there for an interesting and dark tale, but in the end it does not work. The play moves achingly slowly and is frustratingly vague. The characters "Ma’am" and "I reckon" their way around as if they were in a Mark Twain novel, except for the ultra-modern, pierced town slut Mary Margaret (played with a sense of fun by Rebecca Poole), who seems to be in a completely different play. Worse, I kept feeling that the most interesting stuff was going on off stage, like the evil corporate-sponsored army that has polluted the world and is keeping order through fear.
There is some good writing here but it needs to be cut almost in half, for the repetition becomes unbearable when held against what we DON’T know about this world. Sharon Sobel’s costumes are eye-catching and perfectly suited to each character. The few scenic elements by Spencer Eldridge set the tone well and Jiyoun Chang and Miniori Koike have some stellar moments with the lighting design.