Presented by Sleeping Weazel
Written by Kate Snodgrass (Bark), Adara Meyers (Birds), Charlotte Meehan (Beesus)
Directed by Melia Bensussen (Bark & Beesus), Shana Gozansky (Birds)
June 2 – 11, 2016
Plaza Black Box Theater
539 Tremont St
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Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) The Birds and the Bees: A Festival of New Plays is good albeit strange theatre. Play #1, The Last Bark is the most concrete of the three plays that make up this production. Birds is post post-modern theatre. Beesus & Ballustrada is even more abstract than Birds. The performances are compelling. The scripts are perplexing.
The Last Bark centers on title character Bark (Steven Barkhimer) in what appears to be his last session with his therapist. It’s a short ditty about unearthing what truly matters from the shit piles of life. Bark is an obsessive worrier. His therapist wonders how that makes him feel. Barkhimer’s performs with fury and self-pity. He’s a patient that carries the show with his mania. It’s not a good look for most but he makes it work. So much so that the session ends very well for his character.
Birds is a Harry Potter meets Peter Pan meets A Clockwork Orange situation with the emotional chaos of puberty. Toby (Alexander Rankine) is a citizen scientist enrolled at the American Institute of Stress (is it taking applications?). He’s in love with Rose (Julia Alvarez), a Hermione Granger sort on crack. Neil (Steven Barkhimer) is his nemesis. Fellow students, Collateral 1 through 3 (Mara Palma, Sam Terry, Louise Hamill), are akin to Dr. Seus’ Things 1 and 2: just as creepy, just as malleable to circumstance.
Truthfully, I’m not sure what this one means. I figured out early that I didn’t know and thus decided I’d hold on tight and enjoy the ride anyway. Whatever it is about, the cast performs exceptionally well. It’s funny and its artistic merit is high. The writing is as tight as the direction. If you like strange, you’ll love this one.
You’ll love Beesus & Ballustrada too. It’s the weirdest of the bunch. It looks and sounds like it should be a mashup of Shakespearean comedy with Greek myth. Playwright Meehan describes it as love between two survivors at the end of the world.
I could listen to Karen MacDonald read the phonebook. It would be weird but she’d make it good theatre. Her Ballustrada hasn’t “a squirrel to her name” but she doesn’t need one. She’s fine on her own. Cliff Odle’s Beesus is more than just a “mild entertainment.” They both deliver compelling, strikingly endearing performances.
The Birds and the Bees is less that and more nuts and bolts. It’s not for everyone. My companion for the evening didn’t enjoy the plays as much as I did. But then, I revel in well-performed abstraction. She wanted something more stabilized in reality. Please plan accordingly.
An aspect that we both found enjoyable was the costume and set design by Mirta Tocci. It was just abstract enough to catch the essence of the evening, and tangible enough to quell any fears that the weirdness might irreparably puncture the 4th wall.