Kelly Moore, Tamara Dearing & Robert McFarland in The Birds.
Photo: Kentucky Shakespeare
Adapted by Gregory Maupin
Review by Rachel White
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Rachel White. All rights reserved.
In its commitment to forging new partnerships throughout the community and beyond, Kentucky Shakespeare has partnered with Greek Fest for an adaptation of Aristophanes’ classic comedy The Birds, which appeared Wednesday night as a teaser for the season opener, The Tempest. The piece went a little long for a teaser, but for a stand-alone in a festival, it may be just the right fit.
The adaptation is a slightly modernized version of the old comedy and has been dusted off and updated by Greg Maupin, who also directs. If you are not familiar, The Birds is an ancient Greek comedy involving two Athenians who, tired of their city filled with lawyers and arguing, approach a group of birds who they believe can help them. The play resonates in our modern world where laws and politics are debated twenty-four hours a day on C-Span, and pundits argue across television screens to the point of absurdity. Maupin uses masks and a broad presentational style, in keeping with tradition, but cleans up some of the jokes and dialogue in an often successful attempt to make the humor resonate (there is an Angry Birds reference, for instance); this is vital to the success of the piece, because wit and banter are so much a part of the story and the style of Aristophanes.
As far as casting, there couldn’t be a more spirited and comically gifted cast in all of Louisville, with Kyle Ware, Tia Davis, Tamara Dearing (as the Hoopoe), Robert McFarland and Kelly Moore. The actors play multiple characters including a chorus of birds. Dearing is especially winning as the Hoopoe, and her solo when calling the chorus of birds together with various (and, I think, accurate) birdcalls was a bit of theatrical magic.
My feeling about this piece overall is that it is a great deal of fun but there is more work to do on it. There are entrances that feel slow, and information that gets lost in the wide expanse of the park. This may be due to the venue, as some of the subtle one-liners might be better served in a smaller space. More strongly defined character types that the audience can hold onto will help the jokes pay off more and hold the story together. That being said, the work flirts with something a little experimental, and it’s a very fine flavor to add to the festival’s season. It also gives the audience a chance to look at some other unusual classics, which is a big treat and something I hope Matt Wallace and company will continue to do.
The play will continue to be performed throughout the weekend at Greek Fest in Festival Plaza at Waterfront Park.
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
Wednesday-Thursday 7PM June 10-11
Free with admission
Greek Festival June 12-13 7PM, June 14 4PM
[box_light]Rachel White received her MFA in playwriting from the New School for Drama, and her BA in English and Dramatic from Centre College. Her plays have been produced in New York at The New School, the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the American Globe Theater, in Los Angeles at Moving Arts Productions and the Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA. In Louisville, she has had productions at the Slant Culture Theatre Festival, the Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Finnigan Productions. She is a recipient of the Litwin Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, and was recently a semi-finalist in the Labute New Theater Festival. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwrights Gallery in New York.[/box_light]