The Hyacinth Macaw
defunkt at the Back Door, 4319 SE Hawthorne, 481-2960, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through Oct 22
During the intermission at defunkt theatre's (lowercase intended) production of The Hyacinth Macaw, a fellow audience member asked me if I had any idea what was going on. It pained me to admit that I didn't have a fucking clue. What confused me the most was how a script by an Obie-award winning playwright, in the hands of a smart, edgy company like defunkt, could result in such a completely unsatisfying production.
The second play in Mac Wellman's four-part "Crowtet," Macaw doubles as offbeat family drama and frenetic deconstruction of theatrical realism. A strange man named Mr. William Hard (James Moore) arrives at an unusual home; the tearing apart of a family ensues. Father Ray (Tom Moorman) realizes that he is a "duplicate," mother Dora (Lori Sue Hoffman) is lured away by a folk-singing Chinaman (kollodi; lowercase intended), and William and daughter Sue (Frances Binder) bury the moon in the backyard. If there is significance to any of this, beyond sheer poetic anarchy, it escaped me. The script is combatively wordy, and the cast and crew prove unable to render the piece accessible or even remotely comprehensible. In what is overall a hysterically verbose production, it's telling that one of the most riveting scenes takes place in complete silence, when the gravity that Frances Binder brings to quietly rolling a cigarette proves more affecting than any dialogue.
Macaw's lighting (by Binder and Moore) and set design (kollodi again) keep adequate pace with the script's conceptual assault on realism, as set changes descend from the ceiling and house lights are manipulated to blur the line between onstage and off. However, these compelling production elements never combine to create a truly cohesive production—and they didn't change the fact that I understood less than 10 percent of what characters were talking about at any given time. There's a fine line between challenging and inaccessible, and this piece lands solidly the latter category, though whether because the script was mishandled or just completely impossible, I'm still not sure.