The Birds | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Birds, Tinfish Theatre. There's never been a shortage of foolish people attempting to create a new and perfect world, oblivious to the imperfections carried over from the old (in America we do it every four years). So Aristophanes' comedy The Birds, written in 414 BC, continues to be timely. Of course, the utopia forged by the play's two enterprising humans is based on a protection racket: after inciting the creatures of the air to declare their independence, they proceed to levy a hefty tariff on both the mortals below and the gods above. But soon everyone is reconciled to business conducted in the same old corrupt way.

The specific targets of Aristophanes' ridicule being nowadays lost on any but a few classics scholars, this Tinfish production, directed by Leigh Anne Wilson, dispenses with academic reverence (an approach Aristophanes might have approved) to focus on the spectacle of broadly drawn, fantastically dressed characters. Armed with William Arrowsmith's refreshingly colloquial translation and Jen Abrams's athletic choreography, the ten cast members attack their avian archetypes with gleeful gusto (in particular, Joe Rosato as a Chaplinesque penguin). The actors set a manic, Mel Brooks pace whose momentum keeps the action rolling--though more slowly in the second act, which is dominated by the less interesting humanoids--up to the last squawk and chirp.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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