Director Mark Lutwak has likely directed his final touring show for the Playhouse as he retires at the end of the season. He’s going out with a bang, as BIRD BRAIN is charming and delightful for all audiences. Especially geared for people in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, this fable tells the story of a nestful of birds in need of a home. They find it in the hat of a woodsman (Alex Purcell), who is changed by their presence in his life. He encounters pushback from a nasty Under Secretary (Kelsey Torstveit) but is ultimately redeemed by his relationship with the Queen (D’Amante M. Wilson). Claire Simba rounds out the rest of the Ensemble.
I saw a dress rehearsal on Friday afternoon and really enjoyed myself. Purcell has a natural charm and presence, while Torstveit appropriately chews up the scenery with comedic results. Alex’s relaxed but thoughtful character plays nicely with not just one off-beat role, but several for Kelsey, who really digs into her roles with brave abandon. I can only imagine how good this show will be by the end of its tour as she mines every second of comic gold out of the script. Wilson and Simba also do a nice job in their supporting roles. This is a fun ensemble to watch.
Lutwak and his band of traveling actors (along with stage manager Tracy Hoida) must rely on a set that will fold up and fit in a van. Somehow, with the mastery of the Playhouse shop, some fun props, and a bunch of crazy hats, they are able to create a magical playground that kids of all ages can enjoy. The tour will head to over 20 community venues as well as many schools within a 50 mile radius of the Playhouse. Community Engagement Coordinator Kristin Schneider informed us during the talk back that over 9,000 paper hats were purchased for this show, many of which will be decorated by the students prior to the show as part of the pre-experience in the show setting.
I strongly encourage you to see BIRD BRAIN when it comes to a space near you. You can find a full schedule here. The child in all of us will enjoy the show while at the same time, the theatre lover in you will enjoy the talent on display.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for Lutwak’s work, his mission to create quality theatre for young audiences, and the mentoring he has provided multiple interns during his time at the Playhouse. It is a loss to our community to see him move to Seattle, and a huge gain to the arts community there. I think all who know him will wish him nothing but the best in his retirement – and hope that maybe he will return for a project or two. I know I’d line up to see it.
BIRD BRAIN is presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as part of the OFF THE HILL series. More information can be found here.