“I’m trying to remember how I got from Point A to the point called The-Man-I-Am-Today. You would think there would be a line I could draw. You would think I’d be able to re-trace my steps,” says 27-year-old Felix (Debargo Sanyal) at the opening of Jorge Ignacio Cortinas’ daring, but weakly constructed new play, Bird in the Hand at Theater for the New City.
We travel back with Felix to his senior year of high school when he worked at his father’s Bird Land Family Theme Park in Miami with his best friend, Gabriel (Alejandro Rodriguez). It’s during this summer that he realizes he likes Gabriel as more than a friend and struggles with how to tell him about his feelings.
Meanwhile, the birds (played with subtle grace and charm by Robert Grimm, Theo Koppel, and Alicia Ohs) flit about silently onstage, providing a nice counterpoint to the scenes in the park due in large part to Katie Workum’s acutely observed choreography.
Other scenes involve Gabriel’s anorexic girlfriend, Susan (Susannah Flood) and her more generously proportioned older sister, Vanessa (Crystal Finn), who works security at the airport. In one of the play’s more inspired scenes, Susan plays Gabriel her sister’s training video on one of their dates, testing his ability to spot contraband like nail clippers.
Cortinas’ dialogue flows organically and the talented cast handles it with aplomb. Unfortunately, the play suffers from structural problems stemming from a lack of conflict. And without exploring the conflict he sets up between Felix, Gabriel and Susan – which may be intentional on the playwright’s part – Cortinas makes it hard for us to care about their desires, dreams and ambitions.
In the end, there is a lot to like about the originality in Bird in the Hand, but it’s not enough to sustain the meandering story for two intermissionless hours.
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