NOT FOR ME
There is no such thing as a 60-year-old, small-town woman ‘type’
While acknowledging a good portion of the opening-night audience for “The Birds and the Bees” enjoyed the show, reviewer Colm Magner says he wasn’t one of them.
I’ll admit I was suspicious of the play “The Birds and the Bees,” when I read an interview with the writer Mark Crawford in which he said: “I realized how fortunate I’ve been to have a clear sense of who it is I’m writing for. In my relatively short playwriting career, I’ve had the great pleasure of premiering work at theatres outside the city limits, and the great pleasure of writing for their audiences.”
“Oh, oh,” I thought. “What does he mean by ‘their audiences’?”
And though he insists he doesn’t write “types,” he goes on to say, “I took a good look at audiences everywhere I went… (and thought) how exciting would it be for all those female audience members in their 60s to see someone like them on stage as a romantic (and sexual) lead?”
“Like them”? Is he not now suggesting there is a 60-yearold, small-town female “type”? The belief there are “types” of human beings, who a playwright then writes about to satisfy an audience, as if filling in a paint-by-numbers colouring book, seems like a recipe for disaster to me. And it turns out it is.
But if you were a good portion of the opening-night audience, you wouldn’t care a hick what I thought, clearly.
You would laugh and laugh and then give a standing ovation (though I must add they give them rather freely on the Island).
So I suggest you see the play and make up your own mind. That’s part of the joy of being a grownup.
“The Birds and the Bees” is about, well, the birds and the bees, but as explained by your kindergarten teacher.
Contrary to some accounts, it is not a French farce transported onto an Ontario turkey farm (lots of doors, but
sadly they don’t fly open and shut much).
It is a rather puerile comedy with a second-act effort at becoming a “social comment play” which ends rather limply.
Where all this tacked-on talk about “chaos” and characters saying: “not out, but through; not separate, but together” as if they’re suddenly channelling the Dalai Lama, comes from, is beyond me. Did I miss something? They all dropped LSD at the local dance?
All you really need to know is that the plot surrounds a local event called Turkey Day (is Malcolm Lowry in the house?), there’s a mother who keeps bees (giving the playwright the opportunity to talk about something current, though boring), and I suspect everyone may be happy in the end.
Director Ted Price does well with the pace, brings the company together (on a rather puzzling set), and all the actors do well wrapping themselves in this veneer of fabric, which barely carries them to the thin conclusion.
That is hard work, but Martha Irving (Gail), Geneviève Steele (Sarah), Wally MacKinnon (Earl) and Benton Hartley (Ben) all have some fun moments.
Hartley, particularly, shows his George Brown Theatre School training with his direct and honest approach to the work.
But in the end, they cannot save this play from itself.
Again, though, those who go for this vapid kind of stuff may love it.
Get some fries and a burger around the corner, and eat it all up.
Just don’t be surprised if you’re hungry an hour later.
Colm Magner, who is a member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, has worked as a playwright, actor, director and teacher for more than 30 years. His column, In the Wings, will appear regularly during the summer. To reach Colm, email email@example.com or find him at Twitter.com/IntheWings61.
Benton Hartley, left, and Wally MacKinnon rehearse a scene from “The Birds and the Bees,” playing at the Victoria Playhouse until July 30.