The Birds is the wildest, weirdest show in Sacramento and, at intervals, the most wonderful.It is, by turns and sometimes simultaneously, highly sophisticated and grossly juvenile, intellectual and scatological, entirely absurd and strangely realistic, sharply satirical and confoundedly confusing.
Director David Harris envisions an audience including hormone-driven seventh-graders (obsessed with body functions) and dusty, ancient-literature Ph.Ds. He employs a script that is a loosey-goosey—forgive the avian reference—translation of a comedy by Aristophanes circa 414 B.C. It’s razor-style political, social and literary satire, with modern kinship to Monty Python and similar “off the wall” entertainment. The battlefield is laughter, with no sacred cows spared and no prisoners taken.
In an effort to convey the flavor of the original, Harris mixes ancient and modern. We see gods such as Poseidon (actor Lorne A. White in a rubbery foam cloak) dickering with humans. But there’s also a Bob Marley stand-in; a spiky goth punk; and an actress impersonating Florida’s Katherine Harris, toting a box of dubious ballots and chads. And there are scenes in which more than a dozen actors, sporting feathers and masks, turn the stage into anarchy as the birds, hooting and jerking and pecking at the audience.
It’s audacious, to the max. And you’d need a highly disciplined troupe to bring it off seamlessly. This production features community actors and Sacramento City College students, so several critical exchanges get lost in the din, and a few scenes become utterly bewildering.
But, even though some moments miss, this is a heads-up effort, and it connects at most points. What they’ve undertaken is so brazenly energizing, risky and “right”—also grounded in a classic text—that I’m compelled to highly recommend this show as a remarkable experience, the rating above notwithstanding. It’s much more interesting (and fun!) than other slicker and more professional shows around Sacramento.