This show is for the birds ... but you’ll surely enjoy it, too. The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans has done their namesake playwright proud with another excellent play. Their production of Williams's Dangerous Birds (If Agitated) has humor, silliness, far-fetched scenarios, a giant, life-size puppet, dramatic oddities, a talented cast and plenty of birds. And as the play is entering its final weekend Friday November 18, go see it now before this most entertaining show flies the coop. Dangerous Birds is performed in the courtyard of the Phillips Bar & Restaurant—an appropriately unusual venue for an out-of-the-ordinary play. Besides, getting your theater and bar all together in one venue is like killing two birds with one stone.
The show is comprised of three “fowl one-act plays,” including “The Gnädiges Fräulein,” “Sunburst” and “The Pronoun ‘I’”:
“The Gnädiges Fräulein,” which translates to simply “young lady,” is the story of a poor, pathetic, young and snakebit German girl. The fräulein is a strange bird. She once had a successful career as a performer, singing and dancing before the likes of kings and queens, until a terrible, disfiguring accident with a trained seal rendered her toothless, homeless and wandering (free as a bird?). She eventually finds herself in the Southernmost Key, living in the Big Dormitory run by Miss Molly, where she both eats and pays her rent in fish that she acquires at the docks when the fishing boats come in. (“Three fish a day keeps eviction away. One fish more keeps the wolf from the door.”) Unfortunately, however, The Gnädiges Fräulein has competition. The cocalooneys, fierce and hungry sea birds, also live off the fish brought back by the fishermen. These birds are most dangerous if agitated, and someone getting in the way of their dinner is certainly cause for their agitation. Therefore, the cocalooneys now relentlessly target the poor fräulein, who fearlessly continues her pursuit of fish even as the birds peck her eyes out. The fish-hankering fräulein nonetheless triumphs and scores enough fish for supper, proving that she, quite literally, eats like a bird.
“Sunburst” tells the story of Miss Sylvia Sails, a famous and well-to-do actress who is being held hostage in her hotel room. A couple of young derelicts have eyes on her sparkly and valuable sunburst diamond and are plotting to forcefully relieve her of it, until they discover that the ring is permanently attached to her finger due to arthritis-induced swelling of the knuckles. Finally, “The Pronoun ‘I’” involves a self-centered narcissistic poet, the once beautiful old hag—Queen May of England, and her young lover.
Augustin J. Correro, the play’s director, says, “Some of the feats we’re attempting are heinous, hideous, and outside the qualified realm of good taste. Much of the humor this evening is at the expense of the less fortunate. In short, this evening’s fare is positively ridiculous.” In fact, a little bird told me that the show even has a touch of risqué partial nudity, including some tassel-swinging burlesque. And it all just adds to the entertainment value.
Theater this good is truly a rare bird.
One word of advice: seeing as the play is outdoors in the courtyard, bring something (or somebody) warm to snuggle up with. Though the Dangerous Birds-themed cocktails—created by Phillips Bar especiallly for this play—do help warm you up a bit, it (sometimes) gets cold in November.
The play stars Mary Pauley in the roles of Molly and Miss Sylvia Sails, Bunny Love as The Gnädiges Fräulein, and Morrey McElroy as Polly, Society Editor for the Cocalooney Gazette. Not surprisingly, the rest of the cast is also a bunch of skillful and accomplished performers. I guess you could say birds of a feather flock together.
Dangerous Birds (If Agitated) is playing at Phillips Bar & Restaurant, 733 Cherokee St., Friday November 18, Saturday November 19 and Sunday November 20 at 8 p.m. For more information or to buy tickets, click HERE.