By Luis Castilla
After enduring two years without live plays, the Theater Arts Department proves it has not lost its aptitude for putting on exceptional performances with Aristophanes’ “The Birds.”
“The Birds,” which is currently running, is witty and hilarious. With pop-culture references being thrown from every direction, audiences are kept on their toes trying to keep up with every punchline.
The costume design is top-notch as always. The titular birds are all either elaborate puppets or performers in full bird costumes, each with its own unique color palettes to tell them apart. There are many scenes in which all the birds are on stage, creating a rainbow of birds.
“The Birds” explores many themes that may go over people’s heads if they don’t know what to look for.
The play follows a Los Angeles couple named Jennifer and Lawrence, played by Arely Chavarin and Christopher Fu respectively. The pair attempt to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city as well as the fabricated personalities that inhabit it.
Finding refuge in the land of the birds, Jennifer and Lawrence soon establish a city, Cloud Cuckoo Land. Here, they live among the birds as part of the flock.
Peeling back the layers, audiences will find that “The Birds” is an allegory for land-theft, gentrification and the hubris of man. The play sparks questions of whether or not people are justified in their attempt to better the lives of others and what that can mean to the parties involved.
The bird chorus leader, a purple bird played by Abel Kimiko Rock, is the most suspicious of the couple. Most of the birds are always chirping and squawking but the chorus leader, Kimiko Rock, the most vocal of the birds, tells stories of birds who were wronged by humans.
Despite practicing the play with masks up until their dress rehearsal, the cast’s faces are all very expressive.
Along the couple’s venture, they encounter a rogue’s gallery of characters, each symbolizing an aspect of the lives they are trying to escape. Among them are Queen Latifah, played by Cori Franco; James Cameron, played by Kaz Kasnetsis’ Deadpool, played by Lorenzo Bacalso; and Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory,” played by Tony Jimenez.
It is bewildering seeing so many unique characters on stage, but that is also what makes “The Birds” so different. The Theater Arts Department closes “The Birds” with an acknowledgement that East Los Angeles College is on native ancestral land, a sentiment that is appreciated considering the nature of the play.
“The Birds” is still running in the P2 Black Box Theater with showtimes at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Friday and Saturday and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets cost $8 for ASU members, $10 for general admission and $12 at the door and are sold at www.elactheater.org. Visitors are required to to complete a self-check survey at https://bit.ly/elacselfcheck. Face masks are required.