Review: "Early Birds" : All aboard for a cruise of a lifetime

Wendy Elizabeth Abraham, Jayne Taini and Jean Gilpin star in the Moving Arts world premiere production of “Early Birds” by Dana Schwartz, directed by Elizabeth Swain and now playing at the Atwater Village Theatre. Photo: Benjamin Simpson.

Wendy Elizabeth Abraham, Jayne Taini and Jean Gilpin star in the Moving Arts world premiere production of “Early Birds” by Dana Schwartz, directed by Elizabeth Swain and now playing at the Atwater Village Theatre. Photo: Benjamin Simpson.

  • Jill Weinlein, Chief Los Angeles Critic

I really enjoyed the heartwarming comedy "Early Birds” at the Atwater Village Theatre, about two widows in their Golden Years meeting on a cruise. This hilarious comedy will have you laugh out loud and shed a tear or two.

The two lead characters Ivy (Jayne Taini) and Nora (Jean Gilpin) remind me a little bit like the characters Oscar and Felix from the 1960s Neil Simon Broadway play and movie The Odd Couple. Ivy wears loose flowing cruise attire, pops pills daily, swears like a sailor, and just wants to chill. Nora is a wealthy, friendly, refined and stylish widow. Costume Designer Carolyn Mazuca must have had a fun time gathering all the cruise attire for these two characters. Their outfits enhanced their distinctive personalities, while sitting on John Iacovelli’s wood deck chairs on the Serenity Deck, and standing along the metal railing looking out to sea, while pondering about their past, present and future.

Despite their differences, they hit it off pretty quickly, and realize it would be more fun to experience their days at sea and port as friends. Ivy’s expressions are as powerful as her words in Dana Schwatz’ script. She is an exceptional actress and joy to watch. She has a hilarious scene discussing the joy of sex, while prudish Nora cringes. Both Gilpin and Taini play off each other nicely and enjoy their roles.

Lighting designer Martha Carter alerts the audience to the time of day with bright and warm muted gels, while setting the tone for each scene.

The one problem I had with the script was the character Devon (Wendy Elizabeth Abraham) as the captain of the ship. Abraham, a fine actress, would be more  believable as the ship’s activity director with her personable, engaging and caring personality. Devon encourages the friendship between Ivy and Nora, often motivating them to try new adventures together. From my experience on cruise ships, a captain of a large ship with over 400 passengers, wouldn’t have time to give her passengers this much attention.

Director Elizabeth Swain’s decision to have a stage “deckhand” replace unused water bottles between every scene, raised an eyebrow or two. I assume Swain added this in to give the actresses time to change into a new cruise outfit, yet replacing unused water bottles with another full water bottle seemed silly and redundant. Since the crew member made multiple appearances on stage, I was disappointed when she didn’t join the others at curtain call.

Early Birds gives hope of what life might be like in one’s senior years. Hopefully we all will be so lucky to make a new friend and sail off into the sunset on an endless holiday.

MOVING ARTS -  MovingArts.org

L.A. BORN, L.A. BRED, L.A. BUILT

World Premiere of EARLY BIRDS

Written by Dana Schwartz

Directed by Elizabeth Swain

Their Adventure begins Saturday, August 17 at 4pm & 8pm

at the Atwater Village Theatre in Atwater Village!

3269 Casitas Ave. in Los Angeles, 90039.

Performances will be Fridays, Saturdays & Mondays at 8:00pm; Saturdays & Sundays at 4:00pm Tickets: $24.00 - Mondays are Pay-What-You-Will.

For tickets – visit www.movingarts.org or call 323-472-5646