Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Birds
Barrington Stage Company
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Fade and Zander's review of Million Dollar Quartet

Sasha Diamond & Kathleen McNenny
Photo by Scott Barrow
Julianne Boyd's well-executed Barrington Stage Company production of Conor McPherson's The Birds is stressful to watch. Performed with precision, It certainly does encourage contemplation. Continuing on the St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through July 8th, the play, adapted from Daphne Du Maurier's short story (not the Alfred Hitchcock film), could induce many a theatergoer to squirm.

Director Boyd and set designer David M. Barber furnish a crusty, uninviting looking Maine cottage. The interior walls, ceiling, and flooring are made of brown wood. Everything inside looks worn. Birds, viewed on projection screens placed outside the house and on each side of the place, appear every so often—according to tides—and in menacing fashion. Moreover, David Thomas, sound designer, facilitates screeches and other unlikeable noises. Alex Basco Koch is the man responsible for accompanying bird images.

Diane (Kathleen McNenny) writes in her journals and provides narration for this play, too. Hoping to survive, she and Nat (Stevie Ray Dallimore), someone she did not know, find themselves in this awful place. No one would wish to be here. It is not possible to locate much hope here as Nat, a sick man, attempts to regain some semblance of health. He flies into tantrums. In terms of food, a precious few cans remain for sustenance. There's a lake nearby and someone does live there. Otherwise, it is not clear that anyone else is alive.

Julia (Sasha Diamond) arrives. She is young and she could be quite attractive. The choice at BSC (through Boyd and costumer Elivia Bovenzi) is to not initially dress her in a flattering mode. This is wise since Julia has had a difficult time and suddenly finds herself in this dwelling with the other two. She might appear to be sweet and decent and reasonable—and then she is not at all. She steps up to the older adults. Ultimately, she gravitates toward Nat.

Midway through the 90-minute piece, Tierney (Rocco Sisto), that person residing across the lake, makes his way through the rear door. He has lines like, "Be a Christian. Watch where it gets ya." He tries to get Diane to go with him. He adds, "We're all just the same. It's so cold on the other side of the lake." He is gone—this character of impact in McPherson's difficult script is on stage for a short time. Sisto, the ultimate character actor, is, once again, acutely affecting, as are all members of this cast.

Meanwhile, the birds squawk. The world four people inhabit might very well expire and, while living in the present day but perhaps glancing a bit into what might come next, they all realize that a follow-up picture will not be rosy. The apocalypse might be upon them.

Diane, if anyone, could fight her way through this woman's driven disposition, into a future life. She, a former fiction writer, has been a victim of loss and she is as terrified as anyone else; but it would be a stretch to suggest that Diane represents possibility. Julia is more difficult to decipher. She is okay; then she is, obviously, not. Nat, liable to be seized by a headache, is unpredictable. As is the case with Diane, he has experienced fracture within his own family. The house itself, oftentimes boarded up, does provide shelter. No one wants to be attacked if not killed by swarms of birds.

In all, the Barrington Stage take on The Birds is foreboding if not ominous. The production, a difficult one to put together, features exemplary performances. Boyd, to her credit very much an interpretive director, tosses the implications of the play directly to the audience. Where do we go from here?

The Birds continues on the St. Germain Stage as part of Barrington Stage Company's summer season in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through July 8th, 2017. For tickets, please call (413) 236-8888 or visit

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