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THEATER REVIEW Birds of a Feather
By Brian Kirst

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Playwright: Marc Acito

At: Greenhouse Theater Center at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: $35-$45;; 773-404-7336. Runs through: June 17

In Birds of a Feather, the audience witnesses a penguin singing show tunes and a proud hawk reveling in the abundant media attention that he receives. Surprisingly, the comedic nature of this piece is nicely counterbalanced by its bittersweet heart. In fact, anyone who has suffered through the highs and lows of a relationship should find themselves reflecting on the both the dizzying joys and the wearisome lows of life by the show's near perfect ending.

The production is actually based on two true stories of avian domesticity. Roy and Silo, two male penguins who raised a child together, are featured here along with Pale Male and Lola, two hawks that captivated New York City. Marc Acito's inventive script takes you through the initial encounters between these unusual couples and through the turbulent middle stages of their journeys as well. The flamboyant Roy feels he is destined to be a parent and, before being gifted an egg by a kindly zookeeper, tries to convince the quieter, reluctant Silo to hatch a rock with him. Once their child—christened Tango by the staff—is born, the differences between the two continue to increase. Their story is counterbalanced by the tale of Pale Male, a proud predator, who loves providing for Lola, but is callously ambivalent to the fact that she is just one of his many mates.

While this may seem an unusual subject matter for Acito to attach himself to, both couples received significant attention in the real world. Roy and Silo were written about in a popular and, ultimately, controversial children's book titled And Tango Makes Three. While praised for being a subtle way to introduce the subject of gay relationships to younger family members, it was also widely banned by the right wing. Pale Male was also a noteworthy sensation for building a nest on top of one of the most exclusive apartment buildings in the Big Apple. The efforts to remove him from his perch caused vocal outcry and much difficulty for the residents including Mary Tyler Moore and newscaster Paula Zahn, a character here.

But through these animated portraits of our beaked counterparts, Acita is able to get at the truth of relationships, in general. He captures the shifts and changes of intimate personal connection with comedic accurateness and reaffirms the normalcy of queerness by illuminating how often same sex attraction occurs in the animal kingdom.

The performances also bring multiple layers to the statements made here. Under the keen direction of Jacob Harvey, Aaron Kirby and Paul Michael Thomson preen with heartwarming diversity as a host of warm blooded characters. By the end of the evening, they have truly endeared themselves to viewers. Marika Mashburn and Abu Ansari, meanwhile, excel on multiple levels as the humans who love them.

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