Izzy Keel & Mitchell Martin in Birds of a Feather. Photo: Bill Brymer
Birds of a Feather
By Marc Acito
Directed by Michael Drury
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
A story about two male penguins hatching and raising a chick sounds like a wholesome story for the whole family, right? At the time of initial publication, the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” sparked controversy due to its so-called scandalous portrayal of non-traditional values. Based on the absolutely true story of Silo and Roy, two penguins who inhabited the New York City Zoo in the early 2000s, Birds of a Feather transforms the book into a delightful play that takes on themes of parenting and partnership with plenty of laughs.
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this play as something silly with very little substance. And yet the script has lots of jokes with pitch-perfect wit that the four-person cast handles with ease. The pacing of the show never slows for a second, with an ensemble that works together to produce sincere depictions of the challenges of falling in love, meeting a mate, and raising a child within these complex relationships. Although the concept of birds becoming parents is easy to shrug off as a rejected Pixar plot, this production remains sincere and even innocent in its message.
Playing dual roles of Silo and Roy, Izzy Keel and Mitchell Martin is a strong comedy duo. Each brings strengths of delivery and committed physicality that adds playfulness to an already light-hearted show. Keel displays a range of characters whose depth goes beyond a sweet story of parenting. As Silo, they bring out surface-level intellectual snobbery with the inner struggle of bigger questions. As Roy, Martin is a worthy match for Keel, with every show tune and a bit of playful banter. His self-assured performance risks going over the top as the penguin who initially finds and hatches their chick. Keel and Martin do well to not pull focus with their bird-like movement but rather their instincts remind us that family issues transcend species. Marten and Keel prove their comedic chops and stretch their character muscles as fame-hungry birds of prey as well. Both show versatility with accents and movement that are both entertaining and impressive.
Strong support is provided by Amber L. Hurst and Hannah Jones Thomas. Playing several characters like zookeepers, politicians, and news reporter Paula Zahn, both show a range in their talents and prove they are capable of wearing many hats. Each plays the role of bird watchers consumed by the controversial winged creatures. While neither character is convinced they will find love, their awkwardly sweet “meet cute” is all the more satisfying.
While two penguins caused a scandal by raising a chick together, their story reminds us that the struggles and triumphs of family and marriage are universal. And in Birds of a Feather, it is the triumphs that are so heartwarming.
Featuring Amber L. Hurst, Hannah Jones Thomas, Izzy Keel, & Mitchell Martin
Birds of a Feather
September 3-19Pandora Productions
The Henry Clay Theater
604 S. Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!