★★★★☆ - Delicious
If you’re expecting a stage adaptation to mimic Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film, you might tend to be disappointed. This adaptation by Conor McPherson of Daphne du Maurier’s novella, “The Birds” takes a different tack than Hitch. Neither remains completely faithful to the original. While the film went the thriller route with the avian attacks, and blood and gore, the play goes to the psychological mindset of the original characters facing the kind of dystopian tales we’ve come to love of late.
In haunting atmospheric pre-show sounds of rain and birds and crickets underscored with barely audible music, Sandy Stein sets the feeling of the production. When Ginny Adams’ lights come up on another wonderfully detailed set by Ron Lindblom, the tension has already begun, and expectations are high.
Here, the attacks have been underway for a couple of weeks and the voice-over by Diane (Jamie Carvelli) gets the plot moving as she writes another entry in her journal. Then Nat (Shawn Hackler) wakes in delirium, and sucks you in further with his first lines.
Hackler yanks the emotion of fear and loss from the tips of his toes; you can see it travel through his body. You can hear it in his tremulous voice. As the play moves forward, so does Hackler’s Nat. He glides effortlessly through the stages of loss and grief, into fear and hopelessness, and finally into determination.
Carvelli delivers a decent Diane, who takes on the role of nurse, then mother, then jealous lover want-to-be. She moves through the stages of regret to hope with seamless determination. There’s a steadiness Carvelli brings to the character that rings true of the self-assured woman, yet she’s not afraid to let emotions rule when they’re called for.
As a fellow traveler in a world gone haywire, Shambrion Treadwell doesn’t fare as well in her portrayal of Julia. At first, whether she leads or reacts, everything comes out at the same level. But once she settled in, she allowed the gut instincts move her character forward.
The neighbor from across the lake, Tiereney, played by Marty Weaver, makes a gun-toting appearance. His portrayal is adequate, but the transitions are abrupt. When he makes advances on Diane, we don’t feel a heightened sense of fear for her well-being. Given the synonymy of the character name, there’s a menacing smarminess that’s missing from the whole.
Lest you think the production is all doom and gloom and mental terror, take heart. Director Kyle Jones has managed to mine the humor in the script as easily as other emotions. For instance, Nat is excited to get a piece of pound cake and opens a can of fruit to add to the treat, and doesn’t get what he’s expecting. And, with one lagging exception, Jones keeps the play moving through the short scenes maintaining a good rhythm to the tension.
The psychological thriller tends to be overlooked at this time of year. Without dipping into the stereotypical, this is a great entry to the Hallowe’en season. It’s an opportunity to dive into dystopia based on a classic.
What: The Birds
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through November 5
2 p.m. Saturday, October 28
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $21 - $24 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Kyle Jones; Sound Design: Sandy Stein; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Costume Design: Rose Scarborough; Stage Manager: Kendra Harris; Running Crew: Ernest Medina, Nicole Shaw