By Tulis McCall
Alrighty then, THIS was a creepy pleasure, sort of. The Thing With Feathers, now at the Barrow Group, is not your average love story, no sirree. In fact, it will make you squirm more than once. Just as Scott Organ intended.
The time is now and the place is Suburbia, Anywhere, USA. More specifically it is the home of 16-year-old-days-away-from-being-17 Anna (Alexa Shae Niziak) and her single mother Beth (DeAnna Lenhart). As the play opens we discover Anna in Internet flagrante – nothing sordid – with her new friend Eric. How they connected is not clear, but that they have been Skype chums for awhile is more than clear. She shares her writing with him (read heart) and he shares his older (21 years old) mind (read hmmmmm) with her. She is fresh and charming. He is older and vulnerable. He also lives 900 miles away, which makes him very, very safe.
Until he isn’t. This in itself is not the scary part. It is the way he moves, the way he smiles, and the boatload of secrets he has dragged along with him.
This stranger in a strange land is a tremendous upset for Beth and her soon to be fiancé Tim (Robert Manning, Jr.) Tim is a cop, and this is a fact not lost on anyone. Beth is a lioness protecting her cub and wants the Eric person gone yesterday. Eric is too old and too a few other things to be hanging around her daughter. Eric’s arrival is, however, no problem for Anna whose heart is available for the taking. After all, she has just turned 17. Poof.
Organ has laid out the first act using the equivalent of an exacto knife for writers. The first act’s final scene packs a wallop, but we don’t know why. There is something a bit Hitchcock in this work. One facts slides into another until there is a very slow motion pileup on the freeway to happiness. And once it begins, it cannot stop. This is one of the many delicious qualities of the writing – days later a person will still be mulling over the events to see how one led into the other. And there is that chill. It is one thing to see sinister on a big old movie screen. It is another to be in a theatre breathing the same air. The deception hangs in the air like phantom laundry on which you cannot put your finger. You just know it is there.
The second act does not fare as well as the first. Second acts are tough. A writer lays out all the clues in the first act, and it is the second that requires them to be tied together in a bundle. This is true for all plays, all television and movies, novels and even music. The writing in this second act loses its grip on the first. The electric tension bordering on fear is melted down like a snowball in spring. The threat in the air loses steam and is reduced to anger and regret. The plot becomes predictable. Organ does, however, come close to saving it all with a bit of fancy footwork that slings past transgressions directly into the arena of the present as the story ends.
Niziak sparkles as Anna (in spite of the fussing with her hair which is a distraction), and the rest of the cast acquits themselves well. A few pauses suggested that lines or blocking might have been recently altered. The direction by Seth Barrish is fluid with great care taken to direct our attention from one point to another, which is a keen element in the first act’s tension.
The Thing With Feathers is a mythic tale that might make you want to pull out the cliff notes on your Greek Gods. We are reminded here that no one, not a god and not a mortal, forgets. Few forgive. And then there are those select few that not only refuse to forgive, they renew themselves as a transgressor. The unforgiven deed recycles itself.
Watch where you step. Life sticks to the bottom of your shoes. Choose hope as your anti-dote.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
The Things With Feathers by Scott Organ Directed by Seth Barrish
WITH: Zachary Booth as Eric, DeAnna Lenhart as Beth, Robert Manning, Jr. as Tim, and Alexa Shae Niziak as Anna.
The creative team for The Thing with Feathers includes : Edward T. Morris (set), Kristin Isola (costumes), Solomon Weisbard (lights) .
The Thing with Feathers plays the following performance schedule: Monday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 7:00 p.m . Single tickets for The Thing with Feathers are priced at $35 (Premium Seats) & $25 and are avail able by visiting the website at www.barrowgroup.org or by calling OvationTix at 866 – 811 – 4111.