|L-R: Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Tony Naumovski, and Antoinette LaVecchia in THE BIRDS. Photo by Carol Rosegg.|
Daphne du Maurier’s disturbing novelette The Birds was first published in her collection The Apple Tree in 1952. It was the story of a farmhand, his family, and his community who were attacked by flocks of birds shortly after the end of World War II and it was generally interpreted to have been a metaphor for Britain’s survival of the London Blitz during the war. Alfred Hitchcock adapted the story for the cinema a decade later, producing the classic film of the same name in 1963.
In 2009, Conor McPherson adapted the story for the stage and his play, also called The Birds, was produced at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. It is that play that is now receiving its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, however, McPherson’s adaptation not only has considerably less impact than the Hitchcock film (for which Hitchcock required his screenwriter, Evan Hunter, to develop new characters and expand du Maurier’s plot) but it even has less impact than the original du Maurier story.
In McPherson’s play, there are only four characters (played by just three actors): Diane (Antoinette LaVecchia), Nat (Tony Naumovski, Julia (Mia Hutchinson-Shaw), and Tierney (also played by Tony Naumovski). They are among the last survivors in a world in which flocks of predatory birds have killed virtually everyone else. The play devolves into a cramped apocalyptic vision of some future dystopia in which Diane, Nat and Julia form a dysfunctional threesome struggling to survive.
The three actors play their parts for all they’re worth but, through no fault of their own, they’re not worth much. The cardboard characters have all been drawn two-dimensionally and it’s not clear that the actors themselves really know what makes them tick. Certainly the audience is never privy to their genuine selves and motivations.