Shadows of Birds shows how addiction casts a pall on entire families | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Shadows of Birds shows how addiction casts a pall on entire families

Glass Apple Theatre's production localizes and humanizes the opioid epidemic.

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Since OxyContin's rollout in the mid-90s, the opioid crisis has grown at a harrowing rate, with recent stats reflecting more than 130 U.S. deaths daily from drug overdoses. It's a hard one to internalize unless you know someone affected; Glass Apple Theatre's latest production works to localize and humanize the epidemic through the lens of one midwestern family. A world premiere written by Richard James Zieman and Joel Z. Cornfield, this one-act sensitively explores the consequences of addiction for both the addict and her family.

Under Cheryl Snodgrass's direction, Tara Bouldrey embodies the character of Nicole down to the tips of her constantly fidgeting fingers. Just out of rehab and estranged from her family for the past five years, Nicole is consumed with a variety of fears: that her mother, played by a heartbreakingly codependent Elizabeth Rude, will never forgive her; that her counselor, played by a wise and world-weary Sydney Genco, won't call her back; and that her addiction will resurface and destroy her fragile grasp on life. There's also Nevada Montgomery as Fayth, Nicole's second counselor who lays it all out.

At their best, the intimate moments that follow illustrate how damaging opioids can be to both individual psyches and entire family structures. Some humor, a necessity to punctuate the darkness, lands awkwardly, but Lori Lee does her best to provide an outsider's perspective as wacky Aunt Susan. Nicole's angry and bitter brother Kyle (Bobby Bowman) could use more stage time to build true empathy for how her addiction has put his life on a permanent pause.   v

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