I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a play. No, that would be a stretch. “A Mouthful of Birds” is a “piece,” in the most obscure sense of the word. And by that, I mean that it’s really weird – Insanely, wonderfully weird. If you were to read “A Mouthful of Birds,” you might wonder whether or not you were smart enough for it. Or maybe that was just me. Regardless, by the time the lights came up in Todd Theatre at the end of the show, I had come to the realization that perhaps no one is smart enough for it. And therein lies the heart of the play. You’re not supposed to “get it,” you’re supposed to “experience it.” “It doesn’t make sense on the page. I was interested in figuring it out. I liked it because it had a lot of movement-based stuff, and it allowed for eclectic interpretation,” guest director Ian Belton said on his decision to bring “A Mouthful of Birds” to UR. The play, written by Caryl Churchill and David Lan, consists of a series of small vignettes, each with their own miniature plot and characters, using movement and dance to propel the play along. The play is based on Euripides’ “Bacchae,” meaning that it has roots in ancient mythology. This idea is slightly lost once the freshman girls in bikinis start grinding with each other to Christina Milian’s song “Dip it Low” in Todd’s production of “Mouthful.” The ancient mythology isn’t exactly glaring when Nick Dicola, a priest, lap dances three people to death or Ted Limpert expresses his deep and dirty love for a pig. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There is sex. There is voodoo. There is blood. There are hermaphrodites. And there are a lot of lap dances. The entire piece is incredibly carefully choreographed, and brilliantly executed. It is fast paced and sexually charged, bringing a torrid of different emotions. It is one big hallucinogenic drug trip. The cast is forced to be versatile. They are switching characters, voices and personalities between dance moves.Gender lines are blurred as men play women and women play men and they each play each other, and I was questioning my own sexuality by the end. Freshman Jonathan Wetherbee exhibits extraordinary versatility in this respect, as does senior Amanda Ahrens, who stuns with her beautiful vignette as an alcoholic woman. Freshman Madeleine St. Marie is a striking presence throughout as a dancer and a spirit that seems to lead the play along. “If you’ve read ‘The Bacchae,’ you’ll have another opinion of the show,” Belton said. “But if you haven’t, it’s enjoyable even if you don’t get it on an intellectual level. It’s funny, it’s sad at times, and there’s some great dancing in it.” At the start of the play, a slideshow began with the question “How are you?” I thought to myself – tired, and a little hungry. As the play began its close, it asks again “How are you now?” I could answer confidently – Enlightened. Changed.Enlighten yourself. Widen your horizons. Go see “A Mouthful of Birds.” Expect nothing and expect everything. But don’t expect a “play.” Don’t go to understand it. Go to experience it. “A Mouthful of Birds” is being performed at Todd Theatre this Thursday through Sunday, and next Wednesday through Saturday. Tickets are available at the Common Market. You can also visit http://www.rochester.edu/College/ENG/theatre/box_office.php to reserve your tickets. Mittelman can be reached email@example.com.
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