Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
Created by Limited Liability Theatre Company, directed by Sarah Hughes, and written by McFeely Sam Goodman, “Drinking Bird” aims to explore questions related to the increasingly machine-driven workplace, the Green New Deal, universal basic income and the American economy as a whole through a group of actors seemingly existing in a hypothetical workspace of their own. The actors discuss and debate these issues in a way that feels like it would be better suited in a TedTalk than on a stage.
Truly, the essence of the show, and why I felt so disconnected from it, could be summed up in the moments after it ends. As the audience is standing to leave we hear an audio works cited page playing through the theater, as if we just finished an academic paper or a text book, and that’s what the show felt like, a text book. The characters didn’t do anything and nothing really happened. Putting text on stage doesn’t inherently make it theatrical, you have to DO something with it. And “Drinking Bird” really didn’t do much. While the points were well made and clearly McFeely has a lot of knowledge on the subject, it felt as though we were expected to be engaged simply because we agree with what’s being said. But agreeing is not enough.
To me at least, theatre is about questions not answers. I don’t go to a play to be told what to do or how to think. I go to a play to be presented with many questions about the world around me and then I have to do the rest. Often, it’s in this post-show question answering that the real brilliance of the piece is found. With “Drinking Bird” it seemed McFeely was directly leading me to one conclusion. Everything was presented in such a way that it felt like the message was “Think this, or you’re wrong”. And even though most of what was said, I found myself agreeing with, being given one answer made me feel very talked down to.
This play, in many ways, reminded me of the television show “Adam Ruins Everything” but even in a show like that, where information is given in a similarly blatant manner, the characters still have outside thoughts, feelings, and desires, and there is a plot outside of the information that provides the vessel for the facts to be delivered. This is what I felt was missing from “Drinking Bird.”
All of that being said, there were some elements that I enjoyed, I thought the moments where they had Amazon Echo and a Voicemail machine delivering dialogue to show how machines have begun to infiltrate all aspects of society were very clever. There were also some moments that were very well staged and fun to watch such as a dance sequence halfway through the show and a video game sequence towards the end that was very funny and creative. The actors all did a great job in bringing life to the text in what could have very easily become reminiscent of high schoolers taking turns reading out of a textbook. I also enjoyed the last scene where a poem was used to define the true meaning of work.
“Drinking Bird” is full of very relevant and well thought out ideas but the execution of those ideas never really gets out of lecture territory and I found myself longing for questions but only being given the one answer.
“Drinking Bird” was Co-created by McFeely Sam Goodman, Sarah Hughes, and Lucy Kaminsky
Text by McFeely Sam Goodman
And Directed by Sarah Hughes
It was Co-Developed and performed by Marisela Grajeda Gonzalez, Lucy Kaminsky, Narea Kang, Rachel Lin, Mike Mikos, and Rad Pereira.
Lighting Design by Cha See
Sound Design by Emily Auciello
Scenic Design and props by Ryan Goff
It runs July 3rd-6th at 7PM at the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St, New York NY 10014) as a part of ICE Factory 2019.
For more information go to: http://newohiotheatre.org