Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: The Birds (5 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Connor McPherson's The Birds on November 15, 2012.
From the writer of Mosaic's Award-Winning hit, The Seafarer, and the plays Shining City and The Weir, Mosaic is pleased to present the Southeast Premiere of The Birds by Tony Award nominee Conor McPherson. The Birds is a chilling psychological portrait inspired by Daphne Du Maurier's short story (on which Hitchcock's famed thriller was loosely based). Set in an isolated, abandoned house, strangers with no electricity and little food, take refuge from the unnerving masses of birds that attack everyone around them.
John Manzelli directed a cast that included Kim Cozort, Kenneth Kay, Kevin Reilley, and Vera Varlamov.

Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
On the surface, Irish playwright Conor McPherson did not do the theatrical world any favors when he wrote sixteen scene changes into his eighty-five minute play, The Birds. My handy dandy calculator tells me that means every 5.3125 minutes there's a dimout/blackout on stage during which time the set/props may be changed, costumes changed and a time line established. Can you think of a better way to slow down a performance? No, neither can I. But Richard Simon of Mosaic Theatre and his director John Manzelli, with the help of their terrific cast, solved the problem brilliantly ...
Of course, the fact that Kim Cozort, Kenneth Kay, Vera Varlamov and Kevin Reilley are the people battling the scene changes and the birds means an awful lot. Veteran actors Cozort, Kay and Reilley, with newcomer Varlamov more than keeping pace, turn in riveting performances as damaged goods facing a terrifying death.
John Manzelli's smooth and imaginative directing of this fine cast ensures a first class production of a difficult piece. Well done, Mosaic.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Although the Mosaic production runs only 85 intermission-less minutes, it feels longer for the play is by necessity an inert waiting game. A waiting game where the menace is apparently going to remain outside the cottage, just out of sight. Most of the effort to conjure up the birds falls to sound designer Matt Corey and lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones, who do a great deal with the flapping of wings and darkening sky.

McPherson has long specialized in tales of things going bump in the night, and his approach to Du Maurier’s tale has a similar spectral eeriness to it. His adaptation is skilled, but he leaves most of the suspense responsibilities to his cast members, who project frayed nerves and tension, orchestrated deftly by director John Manzelli.

Much is left to the audience’s imagination, both in the swarms of birds and the back story of the characters. Those expecting the jolts that Hitchcock delivered may be disappointed, but McPherson’s The Birds satisfies as thinking man’s melodrama.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
...John Manzelli, the guest director at Mosaic Theatre for Conor McPherson’s The Birds should take some of the bows for this psychological thriller.
While it is true that this 2012 play  is less scary than its earlier versions. the play is tense enough to induce some psychological soul-searching... A dynamic Kim Cozort is a writer who narrates this story.  Her real-life husband Kenneth Kay (as a volatile individual) shares this safe-zone with her until others intrude in their space— Vera Varlamov as an alluring younger woman with an agenda of her own and a creepy farmer (Kevin Reilly) – who has indecent proposals on his mind.  All four actors are memorable, obviously taking their scary cues from director Manzelli,
Set designer Douglas Grinn’s provides a perfect location to wait out the feathered  killers but it is sound designer Matt Corey who adds to the psychological illusions with his cooing sounds and flapping seagull wings (the scariest moments in this show) while lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones adds to the consistent mystery.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Cannily, there is not a feather in sight during the entire 85-minute The Birds at the Mosaic Theatre — appropriate because the subject is not an eerie avian apocalypse, but how humanity reacts under extreme pressure.
As good as these folks are selling the overall premise and the tragic devolution of their ad hoc family unit, something indefinable about the script doesn’t land as solidly as you hope. The psychological dread, the quickening pulse of a thriller is absent... It’s difficult to be riveting when depicting a slow dissolution.
The acting is always persuasive if not especially subtle, given the script’s reliance on looks of wide-eyed fear and ominous pronouncements. It’s a pleasure to have the married Kay and Cozort, once the backbone of the Caldwell Theatre, back home from North Carolina exhibiting their talent for merging seamlessly with their characters. Among their achievements here with Manzelli is creating, from the moment the lights come up, that these characters are genuinely petrified and the survivors of a horrific reality.
Another plus is the mostly invisible work of Manzelli, producing artistic director of City Theatre and cofounder of The Naked Stage, who spends a good portion of his life teaching at Barry University. A talented actor himself, Manzelli has a feel for staging actors with physical body language.
No assessment of the production could omit the essential contribution of (Matt) Corey’s sound design. It’s not simply the ingenious permutations of wings flapping. In one brilliant cue, the flapping grows and grows until it sounds like the deafening hammering of the air by a helicopter rotor directly overheard, and then it’s cut off with what sounds like the clanging slam of a heavy door. But equally impressive were the almost imperceptible sounds he lay in that give you a sense of reality even if your conscious mind doesn’t notice them, such as drip of water.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...while Hitchcock’s film was scary enough to induce panic attacks in bird-phobic moviegoers, McPherson’s The Birds is pitched at the cooler temperature of a psychological thriller, though more heat would make for a better play.
Staged by John Manzelli, the play turns to the time-tested formula of throwing strangers together in a tense situation and having them unravel.
...despite the strong performances of all four actors and the masterful work of sound designer Matt Corey (the bouts of flapping wings are his doing) and lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones, McPherson supplies not much more than a sketchy version of an apocalyptic world. The most terrifying, dramatic incidents all take place somewhere else, and we just get to hear about them. Waiting for the play to take flight is, finally, much like the strangers’ quest for a resolution to their nightmare – an exercise in futility.
The Birds plays at Mosaic Theatre through December 9, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment