Arts & Culture Reviews

Review: A Mouthful of Birds

There’s a lot to like about the KTS’ production of A Mouthful of Birds, directed by Brendan Sangster.

There’s a lot to like about the KTS’ production of A Mouthful of Birds, directed by Brendan Sangster. When it’s firing on all cylinders, the show has an intensity that can’t be beat. The play is a series of vignettes about hidden tortures, featuring expressionistic dance sequences. This combination of dance and theatre is compelling, chaotic and almost reaches its goal of catharsis. Appropriately, motifs of violent Greek tragedies rear their heads quite frequently during the show; a woman is urged on by a spirit to drown her child, while a man falls in love with a pig.
The cast does a fantastic job as a team, and they’re at their best when the entire ensemble is onstage for the Bacchae-inspired dance sequences that bookend the show. The seven-person ensemble does whole lot of heavy lifting during the play, and they’re occasionally stretched a little too thin, or asked to do too much. It’s the strength of the ensemble that pulls through these moments.
There’s a lot to A Mouthful of Birds that we’ve seen before, toying with familiar questions of gender, fantasy and violence, but Sangster is able to visualize the play in a compelling way. While the cast has to take on a lot of roles, sometimes only for a brief line or two, the two standouts are Micha Cromwell and James Hunter. Cromwell and Hunter perform a monologue at the start of Act Two that is the highlight of the play. The two are able to take a familiar spin on gender and perform it in a very affecting way. It’s the highlight of a play with many emotional crescendos.
As the play deals with many heightened emotions, it’s important to nail one consistent tone. The cast and crew of A Mouthful of Birds are able to avoid falling into more campy territory, selling these strong emotions as genuine. The play works excellently in many parts, and it’s a shame that parts of the play lack momentum. The cast is giving it their all, the music by Thomas Hoy is wonderful, and Julia Hutt’s choreography brings out a lot of physicality in the performances. The play works best and gains momentum when the elements of theatre and dance merge, and the similarities between the two are highlighted. The play moves in stops and starts when we jump from drama to dance to music and back, from scene to scene, without any real sense of how everything connects on stage. Without this sense of momentum, the play works excellently in individual moments. The play is chaotic, and there’s not enough time to get to know all of these tormented individuals. Some scenes seem to end right before they take off. We need to know about these characters a bit more, in order to care about their inner struggles. The energy of the cast is able to pull through those moments that don’t connect as well. For the most part, their performances make us care about these characters.
All in all, I really enjoyed A Mouthful of Birds. The live music is phenomenal, and the action is exciting. The strength of the play is in its cast, and they do a great job.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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