It would be a mistake to label Finegan Kruckemeyer’s “Man Covets Bird,” now in production at 24th STreet Theatre, a children’s play, which is a confining term that lowers expectations. Rather, it is a sophisticated fable that, in the hands of two remarkable performers, reaches the highest levels of the theatrical art. A seventy-minute wonder, “Man Covets Bird” is the emotional journey of a character called Man from childhood and puberty through an unfulfilling young adulthood. He ultimately reaches clarity and an end to the alienation all too common in modern life. Throughout this trajectory, his only companion is a bird small enough to live in his pocket, whose song soothes and comforts him.
The story is acted out by the extraordinary team of Andrew Huber as Man (and others) and Leeav Sofer as Bird (and others). As singers, they are amazing, their voices soaring in Simon-and-Garfunkel-esque close harmony. Their machine-like, body-percussion dancing, created in collaboration with director Debbie Devine, wonderfully conveys the ambience of a factory floor. Leeav Sofer, who also serves as musical director, composed the original music and the duo accompanies themselves with guitar, clarinet, keyboard, and drum boxes.
Adding greatly to theatricality of the event, the video design by Matthew G. Hill projects stick figure animation on every surface in the stage house and is cunningly interactive with the players. The animated bird, the Man’s room, the factory where he works and much, much, more are created in a simple style that might remind one of the graphics of Shel Silverstein.
On opening night, intimacy between actors and audience was created immediately upon entering the performance space. There was a great buzz in the audience and much milling around with talking and laughter. The director and the executive director of the theatre, Jay McAdams, greeted many in the audience. It soon became apparent that much of the joviality was centered on two young men who, it seemed, were the slated performers. There were indeed many young people in the audience and the pair made a point of interacting with the kids. The good humor thus established, extended through the entire performance.
“Man Covets Bird” is serious exuberant theatre of the highest caliber, accessible to young audiences with not a hint of pandering. It is pure joy.
“Man Covets Bird” runs through November 1 at 24th STreet Theatre.