‘The Birds’ at Quotidian Theatre Company by Jane Coyne

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First came du Maurier, then came Hitchcock, and now comes the DC premiere of Conor McPherson’s The Birds at Bethesda’s Quotidian Theatre Company.

Jenny Donovan, Matthew Vaky, and Stephanie Mumford. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.
Jenny Donovan, Matthew Vaky, and Stephanie Mumford. Photo by St. Johnn Blondell.

Good stories normally involve conflict. The Birds”is a prime example. Originally offered as a short story by Daphne du Mauier, then immortalized in film by Alfred Hitchcock, and now the basis of a new play by Conor McPherson, this story has more than its fair share of conflict. At first glance there is, of course, the conflict arising from an external real or perceived threat of enemy attack against humanity, as represented by birds. Perhaps the bigger conflict in this story, however, is the resulting inner turmoil, as well as the moral and ethical conflict and fear that arises within each character individually and among all characters collectively as they face a new existence and survival in a world no longer operating under the order and rules of life they had relied upon in the past.

Directed by Jack Sbarbori and featuring excellent acting by cast members Jenny Donovan (Julia), Stephanie Mumford (Diane), Ted Schneider (Tierney), and Matthew Vaky (Nat), the play is at the same time dark and humorous. Stephanie Mumford is outstanding, playing an abandoned wife and estranged mother desperate for lasting love from anybody. Matthew Vaky shows wonderful dramatic and comedic talent in his portrayal of a somewhat mentally imbalanced and troubled man drowning his inadequacies in alcohol, drugs, and empty relationships. Jenny Donovan plays the part of a callously selfish ingénue to perfection, and Ted Schneider is chillingly cold in his blunt assessment of life and his own personal needs.

Conor McPherson’s script is exceptional. His play starts slowly and methodically, drawing the audience into the feelings of hopelessness and despair ‘perfect people’ might feel in realizing that they may or may not be the only four survivors left in a world that has been overtaken by birds. As the plot twists, turns, and thickens, with McPherson continually dropping and then returning to clues that snare us into understanding the deception and weakness that can envelop humanity when people believe that nobody is looking. We laugh at and alternatively lament the frailty and shortcomings of these highly flawed characters, and we question what we would do under similar circumstances.

I was exceptionally impressed with the script, Sbarbori’s quaint and rustic lake cottage set design, his overall direction of the play, and superb performances by the entire cast.

I highly recommend this wonderful offering by Quotidian Theatre Company and encourage all to see this truly outstanding production.

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Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

The Birds plays though August 11, 2013 at Quotidian Theatre Company at The Writer’s Center – 4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 Ext.1/Ask for Quotidian Theatre, or purchase them online.

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Jane Coyne
Jane Coyne has been involved in the arts for all of her life. As a singer, she has toured the country as a soloist, appearing at major venues throughout the United States, performing with musicians including Duke Ellington, Johnny Coles, Paul Gonzalves, and Tyree Glenn, and she has appeared in many musical theatre productions. She has managed the careers of a number of a number of international conductors and composers and previously served as the vice president of the National Philharmonic at Strathmore, executive director of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, and associate director of Washington’s Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts. Jane directs the National PTA Reflections Program (one of the largest arts education programs in the country). She is also one of the founding directors of Young Artists of America, and manages the career of her son, composer and violinist Joshua Coyne.