Red Birds: twitter-brained

Western Gold Theatre and Solo Collective Theatre are presenting Aaron Bushkowsky's Red Birds at PAL.

There’s something going in in Red Birds but, trust me, you won’t care. (Left to right: France Perras, Gerry McKay, and Anna Hagen. Photo by Emily Cooper)

Aaron Bushkowsky’s new script Red Birds is flat-out dumb and—very occasionally—funny.

It’s tricky to talk about this play without giving away major plot points, but I’ll do my best. In Red Birds, Carol, who has just turned 50, contacts her birth mother Hannah for the first time. The other major characters include Carol’s adoptive mom Red and Carol’s daughter Ashley. A heterosexual love triangle emerges in which the apex is a guy named Derek.

Derek is a douche. He says things like, “You’re sure rockin’ those army boots! Sexy!” and, even more appealingly, “Everybody uses everybody when it comes to relationships.”

To be fair, Bushkowsky has deliberately made Derek a douche: Derek also says, “You can trust me despite how obviously shallow I am.” But this intentionality doesn’t rescue the heart of the play from meaninglessness. Derek is no prize, so nothing’s at stake in the romantic part of the love triangle: as an audience member, you just sit there for two acts waiting for the playwright to get rid of him.

The stakes in the relationship between the two women in the triangle are meant to be more important but they don’t amount to much either. Largely, that’s because their situation is so unbelievable. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the fundamental premise of Red Birds is ridiculously unlikely—kind of a Dr. Phil wet dream. There’s at least one completely arbitrary betrayal. (It involves a villa.) And the thematic exploration is disappointingly shallow and obvious: having met her birth mother, Carol keeps saying, “Who am I? I don’t know who I am anymore!”

Things happen in Red Birds, but the plot points are so thoroughly untethered from credibility and coherence that none of it matters.

Working with this unpromising material, the actors in director Scott Bellis’s production deliver a mixed bag of performances. Interestingly, Gerry MacKay, who plays Derek, finds the most success—because he is so dedicated to the character’s illogic. And France Perras (Carol) and Gili Roskies (Ashley) both acquit themselves well as characters who are less zany. Christina Jastrzembska overacts as Red and Anna Hagen is surprisingly wooden as Hannah. Yes, Hannah is uptight, but it feels like Hagen is just reciting her lines.

I did say that Red Birds is occasionally funny. Act 2 commits more fully to comedy and is stronger for it. And, in the second act, Hannah gets one of the best lines: referring to Derek, she says, “He leaves every room like it’s the last room he’ll ever be in.”

Still, I’d much rather see a play that asks why occasionally instead of riffing on an endless, groundless series of what-ifs.

RED BIRDS By Aaron Bushkowsky. Directed by Scott Bellis. Produced by Western Gold Theatre in association with Solo Collective Theatre.AT the PAL Theatre on Friday, November 2.  Continues until November 18.Tickets.


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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