Whether you’re gay, straight ... or a penguin, finding your soul mate isn’t easy.
the simple but sweet message in Marc Acito’s funny, witty comedy “Birds
of a Feather,” which opened Friday at Diversionary Theatre. Inspired by
the real-life relationships of gay penguins and straight red-tailed
hawks in New York’s Central Park, it shows that no species, gender or
sexuality has all the answers in the thorny quest for love.
James Vasquez brings a bright, effervescent spirit to the 90-minute
script, which zings with continuous one-liners. The characters could
easily be played too broad, but Vasquez and his fine cast find the heart
and honesty in the feathered and featherless characters.
the script is suitable for all ages, it’s not a fairy tale with
feathered costumes. These birds talk (Jeannie Galioto’s ingeniously
designed, quick-change costumes merely suggest avian characteristics)
and the emotions they struggle with are no different from those of the
troubled humans in the story — a lonely zookeeper, a nerdy bird-watcher
and the warring tabloid targets Paula Zahn, the ex-CNN anchor, and her
wealthy husband Richard Cohen.
Gunderson and Mike Sears co-star as both avian pairs in the story. In
1998, male penguins Roy and Silo paired off and tried to hatch a rock,
so zookeepers gave them an abandoned egg, which they incubated until it
hatched, producing the female chick Tango. Although they later split
(Silo found a female mate and Roy remains a confirmed
bachelor), a children’s book about their relationship, “And Tango Makes
Three,” has been banned by conservative school districts nationwide
(Sean Fanning’s whimsical, hand-illustrated scenic design evokes the
As the show
tune-loving Roy, Gunderson is girlish, teasing and playful (“I was
hatched with yolk on my head, which accounts for my sunny disposition”),
while Sears’ bisexual Silo is introspective, moody and conflicted (“I’m
not gay, our relationship is gay” ... “I love you, not your gender”).
He longs for freedom outside the great blue walls of their enclosure,
and he’s stung by homophobic comments from fly-in zoo visitor Pale Male,
whose high-flying sexual exploits with eight successive female mates
have made him a superstar with birdwatchers since the early 1990s.
and Sears flip roles as the hawk pair. Gunderson’s virile and aloof as
the haughty, publicity-craving Pale Male, while Sears is a silky-voiced,
scarf-waving Scarlett O’Hara as his mate Lola, who craves romance and
attention. Their messy courtship from a nest built on a Fifth Avenue
high-rise thrilled bird-lovers in 2002-2004 (Kevin Koppman-Gue is the
sad-eyed Birdwatcher and Rachael VanWormer is the embittered Zookeeper)
but it infuriated building residents, particularly VanWormer’s steely,
cold Zahn and Koppman-Gue’s prickly Cohen.
human characters in the play are lost and damaged, without a sense of
purpose, and each is affected in some way by the birds. The Zookeeper
nurtures the penguins but not herself; the Birdwatcher is emotionally
adrift until he begins following the exploits of Pale Male and Lola from
the boat landing in Central Park. And the cruelties exchanged between
Zahn and Cohen extend to the hawks, who they try (but fail) to evict
from a rooftop ledge of their apartment
building. The birds' personalities are less complex. Their needs more
basic: freedom, sex and partnership. Vasquez doesn't push the actors too
hard to act like birds. The penguins amusingly hop up the stairs of
their enclosure and their arms are held by their sides, but otherwise
they're humanlike -- which emphasizes the similarities between the
script falters a bit when he throws too much into the pot (9/11
memories, too many New York-centric jokes), the production never runs
out of steam under Vasquez’s feathery touch.
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.