Big Dawg Productions is coming out to play for Halloween with Jimmy Janowski’s “The Birds Attack!”—a scene-by-scene parody of Hitchcock’s famous film. Since it is a parody, much of the original dialogue and plot are in the stage production. But the stage dialogue includes many additions, references and enhancements encompassing Monty Python, “Saturday Night Live!”, current events and ribald sight gags and puns. (Translation: The humor is blue. Very blue. Like Lenny Bruce when he was still playing strip clubs blue.)
Mrs. MacGruder (Lee Lowrimore) is having a difficult day with customer service—first a dead parrot and now the order of birds for Melanie Daniels (Kenneth Rosander) is late! What’s a woman to do? In walks handsome and charming Mitch Brenner (Woody Stefl). Sparks fly as Melanie attempts to sell him some birds, while posing as a shopkeeper. The famed birds are adult women Shawn Sproatt, Gina Gambony, Jamie Harwood, and Erin Stevens in costumes. They caw, squawk and cluck their way through a range of feathered creatures: gulls, crows, chickens, and even a penguin. To be clear: When these birds (nice little play on British slang there) attack, they literally go after people via punching, kicking, chasing, and maiming. Without a doubt their finest moment is the homage to the opening scene of “West Side Story.” But for the time being, the birds are in cages, and relatively well-behaved.
Melanie follows Mitch from San Francisco to his weekend home in Bodega Bay to deliver the sought-after lovebirds as a prank? Goodwill gesture? Outrageous flirtation? Somehow Rosander manages to convey bits of all three possibilities. Yes, his Melanie doesn’t like to lose, and still needs to always prove she’s the winner, but there is more to her than first meets the eye. Stefl’s Mitch is obviously “the straight man” to the jokes in the show, a role he embraces with a confused grin and a twinkle in his eye. Bodega Bay is certainly no San Francisco: here the local general store clerk (Lee Lowrimore) is happy to give heaps of personal information about the residents to perfect strangers.
Consequently, we meet Annie Hayworth (Grant Hedrick) a hard-drinking, chain-smoking bitter old-maid school teacher—and past conquest of Mitch. For all of Rosander’s put-together charm for the Tippi Hedron role, Hedrick’s Annie is so normal and school marmish that the comparison is hard to ignore. It’s quite an about-face for Mitch. Unfortunately, Hedrick’s Annie can see it, too. Hedron has quite the gift for dark comedy; his inventive explanation for the sing-a-long in Act II is an experience not easily forgotten.
But, wait, where is the birthday girl? Addison Happer brings Cathy Brenner to life with a very innocent take on 12-year-old girls. (Gotta love his full blonde wig atop his own long hair.) For all the sweetness of Happer, Craig Myers’ rendition of the Brenner matriarch is filled with bile and vinegar (“First come the sweater puppies, then the boyfriends”). Somehow Meyers manages to deliver every preposterous line after line with a straight face. Meyers playing charades with Stefl and Rosander after he finds the neighbor dead from a bird attack is worth the price of admission alone. Those three sell it.
Charles Calhoun II gives us a disbelieving deputy when confronted with circumstantial evidence regarding possible bird attacks. Calhoun plays several roles; though, he shines brightest as Mitch’s uncouth neighbor. Is it the wig and boxers? Or his shameless attitude toward Melanie? As well, his take on Deke the fry cook brings with it a wonderful line about the Tippi Hedron School of the Performing Arts—perhaps my favorite joke in the show, only rivaled by the Geoffrey-Roush-meets-Hillary-Clinton gag for Lee Lowrimore’s third appearance as an ornithologist in Act II.
Audiences tend to have one of two very strict ideas about drag: Either it is too obvious of a man doing a bad impression of a woman, while hamming up his masculinity, or it is a very stylized, sexualized rendition like at a drag club. Yes, Rosander does portray a very sexy Tippi Hedron (but with just enough imperfection to remind us we’re watching a parody), but Lowrimore, Hedrick, Myers, and Happer give us, in the guise of humor, ordinary people: shop clerk, teacher, stay-at-home mom, pre-teen. Outside of the joke, it is actually interesting to watch and ponder—particularly now. Few women go through life as carefully made-up and coifed as seen on the cover of Vogue. Most of us wear jeans, slacks, tennis shoes, and sweat pants more often than a bustier or high heels. Within the joke actually lies some interesting questions to consider.
This is not a serious take on a horror film; again, it is a parody. So the absurdity of the original script is mocked at every turn. Is it high art? No, it isn’t meant to be. Is it absurd? Absolutely. Just to make the point more clear, the soundtrack to the show drives it home with tracks like “Rockin’ Robin,” “The Birds and the Bees,” “Mocking Bird,” “I Gotta Crow” (“Peter Pan”), and “Feed the Birds” (“Mary Poppins”). The list goes on to include songs by The Byrds, too. Though the play isn’t going to reveal the meaning of life, it’s a fun night that flips the bird at convention.