Entertainment » Theatre

The Thrush & the Woodpecker

by Daniel Lamb
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Nov 2, 2015
Kathleen Wattis, Matthew Busch, Stacy Melich
Kathleen Wattis, Matthew Busch, Stacy Melich  

The Actor's Express production of Steve Yockey's "The Thrush and the Woodpecker," coined as a "revenge thriller" offers audiences a sharp, intimate experience of engaged drama and prolonged suspense. This production is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere.

Yockey's play deals with deep-seated emotional traumas from the past coupled with the anxieties and disappointments of the present through a framework of magical realism, connecting sometimes-horrific inner realities to a larger-than-life monstrous physical reality. Inner turmoil thus becomes the metaphorical underpinning of theatrical horror.

"The Thrush and the Woodpecker" is a one-act play in three parts. The play begins with a feverish, Mamet-esque dialog between Brenda (Stacy Melich) and her son Noah (Matthew Busch). This rapid-fire sequence sets up a mother-son dynamic of the defeated child versus the ever rhetorically sharp mother; Stacy Melich commands the stage, and every word spoken is done so with precise calculation of angle and effect.

Matthew Busch gracefully embodies the role of the idealistic liberal college student blind to his own faults. Ever the patronized child, he can't get any leverage over his mother or a word in edgewise. Even when he speaks his truth, Brenda cuts him down to size.

Part two of the play sees Brenda off on some errands, and Noah encounters the strange, ominous Róisín Danner (Kathleen Wattis Kettrey). Kettrey illustrates an adversarial demeanor, and she does so with flair. Noah and Róisín engage in a back-and-forth that leaves us with more questions than answers.

Describing this section without spoilers would be nearly impossible, but suffice to say, they make use of light, sound and projection to dramatize the suspense and horror of the conclusion. Part three brings all three characters into the room; cue the suspense. Things about the past are revealed that threaten the fabric of Brenda's world. The revelation of Róisín's true nature elicits dread in Brenda (and the audience).

Set upon a thrust stage, the audience surrounds the action of the play. "Thrush" utilizes a fairly minimalist set, drawing all attention to the characters and the dialogue. The play will also be running in rep with another Yockey play, "Blackberry Winter," set to debut November 6.

The cast of "Thrush" really executes a great deal of drama and suspense in a time when the level of violence and intensity in entertainment has all but zapped our ability to be shaken by a story. The range of emotions the characters experience all serve to populate the air with a tangible feeling of skepticism, angst and dread. Melich, Busch, and Kettrey truly deliver.

In short, Yockey's work is superb and Actor's Express' production of the play is stellar, so don't miss out.

"The Thrush and the Woodpecker" runs through Nov. 15 at Actor's Express, 887 West Marietta Street NW, Suite J-107, Atlanta, GA 30318. For tickets or information, call 404-607-7469 or visit actors-express.com

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