Birdsend | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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BIRDSEND, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. Local playwright Keith Huff has left a gaping hole at the center of this two-act drama about a schizophrenic named Bird trying to live an honorable life in a world of greed, malice, and indifference. When Bird's ex-girlfriend, Margie, shows up at his door pregnant and hits him up for abortion money, Bird pledges to devote his life to her unborn child if only she'll let it live. He's seen too many deaths, he explains, and will give anything to bring a new life into the world.

Trouble is, Huff never dramatizes Bird's experiences with death--never even mentions one until the play's final minutes--making the character's prime motivation virtually invisible throughout. Even more outlandish, Huff rarely lets Bird go anywhere without a talking pigeon named Ig whose presence never seems to surprise anyone, even when it shows up in the paint factory where Bird works.

With its cartoonish villains and overworked metaphors of flight and freedom, Birdsend is ultimately too broad to have much impact. Director Richard Cotovsky pulls emotionally intense performances from his eight cast members; as Bird, Matt Murdock burns at an almost unchanging fever pitch for two hours. But considering Huff's tendency to overreach, a bit of understatement might have given the play some much needed credibility.

--Justin Hayford

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