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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Conference of the Birds


Cast
Director Aaron Posner has done a lot of noteworthy work for the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC, but his visionary production of The Conference of the Birds moves his work in a new and unexpected direction. This work is allegorical, fascinating, and often ambiguous, but it's never less than engrossing.

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 survive—but 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.

Folger Theatre
The Conference of the Birds
October 23rd - November 25th
Stage version by Jean-Claude Carrière and Peter Brook, based on the poem by Farid Uddi Attar
Hoopoe: Patty Gallagher
The Birds: Katie deBuys, Britt Duff, Jessica Frances Dukes, Jay Dunn, Robert Barry Fleming, Tara Giordano, Celeste Jones, Jens Rasmussen, Annapurna Sriram, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart
Musician: Tom Teasley
Directed by Derek Goldman
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Jeff Malet


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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