‘Man Covets Bird’ Provides Unique Experience For Children
by Madeline White
More often than not children’s theatre fails to touch on sophisticated issues. Farsical scenes of dumbed-down situations, one-sided characters and unrealistic “happily-ever-afters” generally run rampant in the genre. But in LAb24’s production of “Man Covets Bird,” both children and adults are challenged with real-world ideas that are taught metaphorically — requiring a fair amount of interpretation from the absorber.
The two-man-show penned by Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer made its U.S. premiere at the 24th Street Theatre on September 26th, and though it’s aimed toward young audiences, theatergoers of all ages filled the 99-seat house on opening weekend.
Executive director Jay McAdams and artistic director and co-founder Debbie Devine — who is known for being Jack Black’s high school drama teacher — aimed to present “Man Covets Bird” in a manner that is both visually and audibly immersive.
With original music by multi-instrumentalist Leeav Sofer, who also plays a part onstage as the role of “Bird,” the coming-of-age story divulges one man’s inner dialogue and his relationship with a befallen bird. “They were the first eyes in a long time that seemed to truly recognize [me],” the man proclaims. Together the two conquer life’s ever-present battles, from adolescence to adulthood, and through the relationship the young man is able to find solace from the big, cold, hard world in which he lives.
Devine, who won the 2013 LA Weekly Award for Best Direction for the company’s highly acclaimed production of “Walking the Tightrope,” made the successful choice of utilizing each player’s talents to their fullest extents.
Sofer, alongside leading actor Andrew Huber (“The Man”), demonstrates his musical prowess by commanding several instruments onstage. While his jazzy compositions add color to scenes (the role of “Bird” is voiced by his sweetly somber-sounding clarinet) perhaps the most special moments of all are the ones in which he collaborates with his co-star Huber.
While Huber effortlessly and animatedly carries the script on his shoulders, it is clear that he is just as much a musician as he is an actor. He is grounded and invested in the storytelling, but also breaks into glorious a capella harmonies with Sofer and plays guitar confidently and energetically throughout the show. The pair is highly syncopated in their musical and physical expressions, which serves to strengthen the narrative of the piece.
Still, the narrative of “Man Covets Bird” feels scattered at times, largely because it lacks a central conflict and the stakes could use some heightening. But the touching fundamental concepts in the show make up for that; the relationship explored is seemingly representative of two men — a gay couple’s journey through life.
“The underlying theme of this production is that you can’t help whom you fall in love with,” Devine said. “If you can summon the courage to share that secret, your ‘song’ can change the world around you.”
If the focus of a bewildered child in the audience (or adult — for that matter) begins to drift off at any point in the show, the featured visuals will help to recapture it. Video projections of animated sketch drawings by Matthew Hill gorgeously span four walls and provide humorous moments of interactivity with Huber.
While the production’s attempt to dig deeper than the average children’s show is respectable in its own right — especially with a topic as relevant as homosexuality tolerance — the narrative’s reliance on interpretation might cause muddiness in the minds of viewers. Still, the enchanting, syncopated musical and visual moments create an atmosphere that is worth being witness to.
“Man Covets Bird” is playing at the 24th Street Theatre (1117 West 24th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007) through November 22. Tickets are $10-$24. More information can be found at 24thSTreet.org.
Reach Contributor Madeline White here.