Friday, September 01, 2006

A Murder of Crows (convergence-continuum)

Another Wellman script at convergence-continuum

Convergence-continuum is up to its old tricks. Since it was founded the venue has produced out-of-the-loop, out-of-the-norm, outside-the-mainstream-audience productions. Many of them have been written by language trickster Mac Wellman, a friend of Clyde Simon, the theatre’s artistic director.

The theatre’s latest Wellman play is ‘A MURDER OF CROWS,’ an environmental tragic comedy that centers on a teenager who is waiting for a major calamity to occur. She is surrounded by a dysfunctional family (what else can you expect, this is a Wellman play). Her mother is an emotionally drained skeleton; her brother, who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, is a golden monument in the front yard; an aunt and uncle secretly transport shopping bags full of money; and a father who returns from a gruesome death in which he was buried headfirst in a sludge pit. (Honestly, I’m not making this up.)

The group lives in an unspecified heartland area, downwind of what appears to be a toxic waste dump. It’s an area that Wellman has written about so much that his fans call it “Macland.”

Also populating the area is a murder of crows. Murder of crows, that ‘s a group of them, like a pride of lions, tower of giraffes, or gaggle of geese. These crows sing and act like a Greek chorus and comment on the goings on. (Again, I’m not making any of this up.)

The convergence production is under the usual adept directing guidance of Clyde Simon who does double duty as Raymond, the father.

Lucy Bredeson-Smith, who is one of the most consistently excellent actresses in the area, is mesmerizing as Nella, the mother. Geoffrey Hoffman is excellent as the gold coated son. Denise Astorino misses some of the right notes as the girl obsessed by the impending doom. Lauri Hammer is appropriately obnoxious as the bigoted aunt. Wes Shofner gives his usual excellent performance as the father. The crows aren’t much as singers, though they must have been watching the movements of our feathered black friends, as they do everything except fly around the theatre in their attempts to imitate the birds.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Wellman is definitely an acquired taste. I still haven’t learned to savor his concoctions. That doesn’t mean you won’t. If you like abstract concepts, in a well-packaged production, you’ll enjoy ‘A MURDER OF CROWS.’ If not, more traditional offerings are opening at other local theatres.