Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
If you’ve never seen or read Aristophanes’ The Birds, the new Sacred Fools production is a fun way to experience a story that even 2400-some years later, it’s woefully relevant.
Adapted (hardcore big-league adapted) by the cast, the story focuses on Pisthetaerus (Brenda Varda), a citizen of Athens, who tries to convince the birds that they should stop flying around like idiots and create a city in the sky. This will not only a allow them to lord over men, but as humans will have to go through the City of Birds to have their prayers heard by the gods, the birds themselves will be able to take their rightful place AS the gods… Pisthetaerus does a great job of selling the birds a line of hogwash about them being the original gods and they should build a wall to keep out the riffraff.
Oh, right, I did mention that this was a big-league adaptation.
This play is SO relevant that the company has taken every possible step to turn it into a story of Donald Trump – red hats, build a wall, lock her up, you name it. (They’ve also taken the bird city’s name “Nubicuculia” and given it the English translation of “Cloud Cukoo Land,” which, honestly, just makes me love The Lego Movie more than I already did.) The players (all great) do a wonderful job of bringing all of this to life (each performer transformed their own text and modern songs are incorporated, making this is a true ensemble piece), the costumes are fantastic and the modernized versions of the characters are all extremely well done.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that the social commentary is so heavy it becomes exhausting. There’s a point where it’s so on-the-nose that it’s simply making fun of our current administration rather than letting the audience “get it.” If, as Director Sabrina Lloyd even writes in her Note, characters in a 2400-year-old play were dealing with almost exactly what we’re dealing with today, how much more insight into the human condition is there, by simply doing the play as written?
But opinion aside, the production is extremely solid with a top-notch ensemble, tight direction, excellent use of music and singing, and smart production and ensemble.
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