The Garden Theater, Winter Garden, FL
Written by Conor McPherson
Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
“End of the World” stories were the rage in Post War America, and half my teen age sci-fi budget ended up in worlds that had fallen apart. That’s the motive behind this this blistering story of inexplicable animal attacks and the disappearance of nearly all human life. We find ourselves in a large house somewhere near the ocean. Nat (Matthew Rush) and Diane (Tara Anderson) take refuge from angry flocks of birds pecking people to death. The set is dark and weird noises fill the air. Matt hallucinates with a fever, Diane cares for him and makes up minimal meals. The owner is nowhere to be seen; presumable she was an early victim. Nat’s fever clears, and the pair come to an uneasy equilibrium: Matt has had mental issues and Diane is rather defenseless but neither can make it alone. Next mysterious and beautiful Julia (Sara Lockard) appears, upping the building sexual tensions. By now the birds are predictable, and these people venture out in search of food and life. They avoid the farmer (Bob Brandenburg) across the lake as he looks armed, but he comes over one day to offer food, drugs and friendship. He also reveals that Julia is not “faithful” to Nat, whatever that may means. Life grinds to a stop, and when half the cast dies, the other half heads out, looking for hope as we go to a bar to argue “What did we just see?”
None of my comments capture the fear and horror lurking on this stage. Weird lights, bird noise and electronic distortions cloud your vision, and the set is covered with a perpetual cloak of darkness, misinformation and deceit. Mr. Rush seems jittery and about to explode; he’s stronger and mostly unstable. Ms. Anderson is the one we cheer for, she’s motherly and nurturing and alone anyway, and this this entrapment only intensifies her isolation. The tough one to read is Ms. Lockard’s Julia. Gorgeous and willing to trade that for what she can get, her main weapon is sex, and it’s a useful negotiating tool as the lights go out around the world. Lastly, we meet Mr. Brandenburg, the prepper who has finally achieved vindication: the world collapsed, and he still has canned goods and Bourbon. Hurray for him.
This show is intense and actually scary, and not Casper the Friendly Ghost scary. Questions arise: if the birds are tied to tides, why not go inland? Are things better in the Midwest? Is something else killing people besides these bird attacks? After all you can stay inside or wear a football helmet and pads to move about outside. These are nits, but in a thinking man’s horror story like this, one WILL think. This story takes us to dark places, blows out our candle, and abandons us. In the world we live in, we are never more than 3 days from total anarchy. And some days it feels even closer.