The magnificent “Man Covets Bird” shines at the Spooky Action Theater
With its imagined concept, its fully immersive decor and the incorporation of multimedia elements galore, Man covets the bird at the Spooky Action Theater marks the most THEE-yah-tah experience for those of us embarking on our return to the arts in mid-COVID. But make no mistake, I don’t mean that Man covets the bird is inaccessible. In fact, it is beautifully simple, which allows its experimental staging and structure to shine.
Finegan Kruckmeyer’s short, sweet play follows a semi-unnamed character, Man, as he embarks on a coming-of-age journey through a similarly unnamed town, eventually arriving not only to himself but also to something bigger. Infancy, childhood and adolescence succeed each other in the first five to ten minutes, so the play comes to its call to adventure when the man suddenly feels a stranger to his parents and leaves home. to build his own life. As is evident from the title, he brings with him a new companion, a bird, that his parents cannot see (we too, as an audience, cannot see the bird). From there, the story feels like a traditional hero’s journey as man tries to find and share happiness through his bird.
Jonathan Feuer (Male) is expressive, but never overdone, fully convincing in every interaction with his never seen bird. Emily Erickson and Navi (Ensemble) do a great job of creating memorable, differentiated faces that show us the emotions of a multitude of unnamed characters. Perhaps the most incredible feat achieved by players is their ability to seamlessly oscillate between the emotional involvement of the characters and the warm but detached objectivity of the narrators. All three do their best like those blank slates, completely disappearing in every role and every moment.
Nadir Bey’s set is a marvel, both lively and cozy. It constantly contains surprises that go unnoticed until they are used. It reminds Where is Waldo how much it’s going on, or a tactile book with how it illuminates the senses. Sometimes this wealth of effects and sensory elements like music briefly separates the audience from the moment just because there is so much else going on. But despite all of these technical complexities, the individual pieces appear clean and familiar, a fort made up of objects that all audiences are familiar with, making a generally smooth transition from reality to fantasy. Lighting (Hailey LaRoe), costumes (Danielle Preston), sound and music (Brandon Cook, Navi, Emily Erickson) and surprise screenings (Patrick W. Lord, Zavier Augustus Lee Taylor), work together seamlessly. for the same effect, engulfing us in the bird’s nest and the world of men.
Shanara Gabrielle’s phenomenal staging (and, because it is an imagined piece, the entire artistic team) indeed seems to want the piece to engage the audience, to make us feel, each in their own way, be part of things. This is seen in the fact that the play is staged in a round, with spectators entering the stage and the set itself as soon as they enter, then choosing to sit in one of the four quadrants. Actors often walk towards these quadrants and make direct eye contact with audience members as they speak. In perhaps the most moving moment of all, we are directly engaged, we have the chance to listen and fully immerse in the world they have created.
As COVID continues to impact our lives, these expressions of community are to be savored all the more. To build Man covets the bird as a fully collective play in 2021, it feels timely, redefining the theatrical experience to reflect what we all experience now, as we decide when to start breaking out of isolation and how ready we are to share our birds. with the people around us. The show makes you think, but most of all, it’s captivating like a world where these issues are less complicated, where walls can light up, and a bird in your pocket can strike up a conversation with those you see but ignore every day. . Man covets the bird works best like this: as an impermanent, meaningful escape into a parallel world for a brief period.
If I’m being honest, I don’t expect this to be a play that I will continue to talk about in a month’s time. Although I found it deeply applicable at this time, it was not so specific and complex that I will continually unpack it. What I won’t forget, however, is how I felt watching him. The magic of Man covets the bird it’s to experience it, in 75 minutes where it doesn’t seem so difficult to find yourself, and to come out feeling much more connected to ourselves and to our community.
Duration: 75 minutes, without intermission.
Man covets the bird plays until December 19, 2021, Thursday through Saturday night with a Sunday matinee, at the Spooky Action Theater, 1810 16th Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets (general admission, $ 30 to $ 40; seniors, $ 25 to $ 35; students, $ 20), call the box office at (202) 248-0301 or purchase them in line.
COVID Security: Members of the public will show proof of full COVID vaccination before entering the theater. Members of the public and theater staff will wear masks at all times inside the building.
Finegan Kruckemeyer on her magical “Man Covets Bird” at Spooky Action