By Madoline Markham
Oct. 20-Nov.5, Theatre Downtown
You might think you know the story of The Birds from 1953 Hitchcock film. The play by the same name, though, is a distinct narrative, but not completely.
“It’s different,” says Leslie Plaia, who is directing the play at Theatre Downtown this month. “It’s eerie and familiar at the same time.”
Both the film and play were inspired by the 1952 Daphne DuMaurier novella, the story of a farmhand, his family, and his community who are attacked by birds in kamikaze missions after the end of World War II in Cornwall, England. Irish playwright Conor McPherson adapted the story for the stage in 2009.
While the film focuses on showing the birds attacking, the play focuses more on the psychology behind it—making for a different kind of creepy. In the opening scene, we find two people seeking refuge in a New England farmhouse after the attack has started, pondering the fact that they could be the only people left on the earth. From there, the audience has to piece together what happened as they see the tension play out on stage. You see some moments of joy, but mostly moments of fear.
The Irish Independent calls the McPherson’s production “deliciously chilling…spring-loaded with tension…claustrophobic, questioning, frightening; and with a twist.”
Plaia stressed to the cast of Theare Downtown’s production the importance of expressing fear rising and declining at points. From a technical standpoint, you’ll hear the birds through sound effects as they come and go with the change in tide.
Playwright Conor McPherson does character development well,Plaia says, and the script doesn’t feel clunky or forced. It was, after all, quite an undertaking to adapt a narrative that had inspired one of the most well known horror films. The script explores themes such as people not being what they seem and that everyone has something in their past that has impacted where they are now.
Theatre Downtown selected the production in part because they like to do productions with a scary feel in October.
“For me it’s just so damn creepy,”Plaia says. “I’m drawn to that.”
Shows are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit theatredowntown.org or call (205)565-8838. Theatre Downtown is located inside Fifth Avenue Antiques on the second floor.
You Can’t Take It With You
Oct. 19-23, UAB
The play depicts two families, one strictly not traditional and the other strictly nonconforming, and the conflict that arises between the two when a daughter of one brings her fiancé and his wealthy Wall Street family to dinner. The scenes all take place in the 1930s in a Morningside Heights mansion in New York City that’s seen better days. The comedy by George S. Kauffman and Moss Hart won the Pulitzer Prize in 1936.
“It has incredibly probing themes for a screwball comedy. Some of the themes that come forward are still relevant today: follow you heart; live simply in the moment; and the obvious, you can’t take it with you. Should I do what I want to do or what other people expect of you? That’s something that is very personal and that most of us go through at some time in our lives… It’s (also) going to be a lot of fun.”
-Director Dennis McLernon, Professor of Theatre and Head of Performance at UAB
The Unique Angle
“Our casting guidelines (at UAB) are always based on opportunities for actors, and that includes race and gender. Both of the families might be mixed raced families depending on who’s available and what their strengths are.”