Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Human Conflict in "The Birds"


By Skip Sheffield

Mosaic Theatre opens its 12th season with the Southeastern U.S. premiere of “The Birds,” running through Dec. 9 on the campus of Heritage School, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation.
This version of “The Birds” is adapted by Irish playwright Conor McPherson from the same original 1952 Daphne du Maurier short story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock to make his 1963 movie. The only real similarity between movie and play is that birds go berserk in both.
You will see no actual birds in the Mosaic production. Oh, you’ll hear them and see their shadowy silhouettes, but “The Birds” is about human beings, not birds.
The story unfolds with two strangers holed up in a cottage near the sea. Diane (Kim Cozort) is a successful writer whose conflicts with an estranged daughter have interfered with her creative process. Temperamental Nat (Kenneth Kay) is a divorced guy who has just endured a breakup with his latest girlfriend. She claimed he had mental problems and tried to have him committed. Nat has fallen ill with a fever and has just awakened from a two-day sleep.
Diane and Nat have made the observation that flocks of birds attack at high tide and retreat when the tide falls. That gives them a few safe hours to forage for supplies until they have to barricade themselves again.
A young woman knocks at the front door seeking refuge. Julia (Vera Varlamov) has been staying with a group of people who have become violent. One of them hit her on the head with a school bell, causing a wound that Diane treats. Julia offers to do chores in exchange for refuge. This is a bit of a joke, because Julia is kind of a slob.
The introduction of the younger woman creates a sexual tension among the three. Kim Cozort and Kenneth Kay are married in real life and their relationship compliments their characters. Diane is attracted to Nat and threatened by Julia.
Russian-born Vera Varlamov is a sensational addition to the South Florida theater scene. Though Diane rightly points out Julia is younger than Diane’s daughter, that doesn’t stop sexy Julia from openly flirting with Nat.
In the course of just 85 minutes with no intermission, secrets are divulged about all three characters. The most complex character of the lot is Diane. It is a treat to see Kim Cozort digging in to a personality with so many contradictions. An avowed atheist, Diane clashes with Julia, who wears a cross and quotes scripture.
I like it when I see a play that prompts me to go to the Bible and look up a quotation. Julia didn’t give the precise chapter and verse but I found she quoted Ecclesiastes 7:26, which states, “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains.”
Whew! Yes, there are snares, traps and bitterness in “The Birds,” all played out on a fabulous set by Douglas Grinn, with spooky, portentous lighting by Suzanne M. Jones and chilling, evocative sound design by Matt Corey.
Mosaic Theatre is way out west on Broward Boulevard, nor far from Sawgrass Mills. Because of this I haven’t ventured out there before. I say for the record it is well worth the trip.
Tickets are $40 adults, $36 65 and up and $15 students under 25. Call 954-577-8243.

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