Birdie Blue

Also see recent reviews of The Drawer Boy and A New Brain
and An Evening with David Sedaris

The City Theatre is staging the second production of Cheryl L. West's new play, Birdie Blue. This is a moving and enthralling ninety minutes with superb performances from two actors and admirable direction by Leah C. Gardiner.

Birdie Blue is a story told from the present - specifically, the 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King's death (April 4, 2003) - with flashbacks to Birdie's youth, her marriages and her turbulent relationship with her son. Along the way, we meet a host of characters, including family members, neighbors and friends. Birdie has known love in her life, including that of her husband Jackson, who Birdie now cares for with great tenderness and respect as he descends into a world of senile dementia. But Birdie has also known cruelty and immense sadness, most pointedly experienced on the day that Martin Luther King was killed, the day Birdie's son Bam left home and their relationship was irrevocably broken. Now, this anniversary of King's death will mark another significant transition in the life of Birdie.

The performances of Irma P. Hall (as Birdie) and Ernest Perry, Jr. (as everyone else) are absolutely compelling and draw the audience into their story immediately. Ms. Hall embodies her character in such a genuine way, it is easy to forget she is acting. She is magnificent. Perry shows amazing versatility as he performs a wide range of characters, from Birdie's sister Minerva to her rebellious son Bam, to James Brown-like nephew Bocat, and more. His most touching portrayal is that of Birdie's husband of 30-some years, Jackson, both in the present where the confused Jackson is like a lost boy and in the past when the youthful Jackson drew Birdie from the depths of sorrow, often making the transition within one embrace. Each character Perry plays is unique and, through only minimal costuming, Perry evokes each personality in entertaining and fascinating ways.

The open set provided by Tony Ferrieri is excellent, showing the porch and bedroom of Birdie and Jackson's home. Lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski works in perfect harmony with the set. Pei-Chi Su's costuming is outstanding. Sound design by Elizabeth Atkinson completes the picture, and the recorded music lead-ins for each character and scene aid in evoking the proper period.

Birdie Blue is a fascinating life story, a full character study presented by two extremely skillful actors. Highly recommended, Birdie Blue continues at the Hamburg Studio for City Theatre through May 11. For performance schedule and ticket information, call (412)431-CITY of visit

Photo: Ric Evans

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-- Ann Miner

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