Theater Review: The Birds

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 29, 2007 2:00PM

This is your first movie. One of your co-stars was supposed to have the lead, but you got it instead. The resentment is as thick as pea soup (which, incidentally, is the color of your wardrobe). The director refuses to let you leave the set, insisting you inhabit the role 24 hours a day, and his production supervisor lords over everything with an iron fist. On top of all that, you have to spend a large chunk of the movie being attacked by birds. It's causing you to hallucinate that feminist theorician Camile Paglia is actually your psychiatrist, and she's constantly following you around, giving you unwanted advice. What's a girl to do?

2007_10birds.jpg Hell in a Handbag's remounting of their ingenious 2001 show The Birds doesn't just recreate scenes from the movie but also folds in juicy behind-the-scenes drama with some metatextual musings. There are even a few musical numbers. Tracy Repep plays novice actress Tippi Hedren (who, in real life, is Melanie Griffith's mom) as a smart but stressed-out woman bending under the pressure of working with Hitchcock (who, God-like, is never seen). She's content to play it straight to the absurdities unfolding around her. Naturally, since this is a Handbag show, the funniest moments come from the cast members who are in drag. David Cerda's wicked Suzanne Pleshette, whose default pose consists of a burning cigarette and withering stare, is matched by Ed Jones' little girl Veronica Cartwright, a high-powered combo of Goldilocks and Rambo.

Occasionally the show is so busy being clever that it forgets to be funny, but snappy dialog and some very funny bird puppets help to paper over the lulls. Although you don't have to know the movie to enjoy it, we certainly urge Hitchcock aficionados to see it while they can: the show ends November 17th.

The Birds runs Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Berger Park Coach House, 6205 N. Sheridan Road. Details here.