Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Conference of the Birds
Peter Brook, the innovative British theater artist, created the script with Jean-Claude Carrière from a 12th-century Persian poem by Farid Uddi Attar. More than simply a play, this production is a synthesis of choreographed movement, song, and the constant musical accompaniment by Tom Teasley.
The action centers around the birds' quest for their mythical king, the Simorgh. The outspoken Hoopoe (Patty Gallagher) warns that the trip will include many dangers, but may yield an unimaginable reward at its conclusion. Some of the birds don't want to leave their comfortable homes, others fear the unknown or worry they won't have the strength to survivebut nothing can stop the Hoopoe's efforts.
Lest this all sound ponderous, it isn't. The playwrights and the director know the importance of leavening the seriousness with physical humor.
Posner and his cast have created a charming and diverse group of bird personalities. From the snobbish Falcon (Jay Dunn) who can't see the benefit of leaving the service of a human king, to the big-eyed Nightingale (Annapurna Sriram) and the proud Peacock (Jessica Frances Dukes), to the shy Sparrow (Britt Duff), they bring together their distinctive characteristics into a whimsical ensemble. Gallagher conveys the Hoopoe's pioneering spirit through her open face and malleable features.
Teasley, who already has one Helen Hayes Award, serves as a one-man orchestra, creating a soundscape that encompasses cymbals, bells, wind instruments, and other musical elements. Sriram and Duff add to the musical score by performing songs they wrote.
Meghan Raham's scenic design and Jennifer Schreiver's lighting design set the unrealistic mood with roughly woven hangings, slightly distorted mirrors, and mismatched lightbulbs suspended over the stage. Olivera Gajic's elaborately draped costumes pick up the colors of the various birds' plumage.