Theater Review: BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA (Moxie Theatre in San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on February 10, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Playwright Anna Ouyang Moench uses the setting of a wooded area — beautifully designed at MOXIE Theatre by Robin Sanford Roberts — as the backdrop of this beautiful family drama. The father, John (Mike Sears), is just about equally bound to his liberal and earth-loving principles, his love of bird-watching, and his expectations for his two children, Caitlyn (Farah Dinga) and the never-seen Jeremy. Every few years over the course of about 15 years, we view the status of their growing/struggling relationship during Caitlyn’s birdwatching visits with John.

What makes the play so powerful is the richness of what is said and left unsaid. Director Lisa Berger paces the pair beautifully, with pauses that often say as much as the dialogue. Moench’s script has such depth to it, taking us on a slow ride that never loses us, yielding both laughter and groans of sympathy as each character puts their foot in their mouth just as some progress is made. If you don’t see your family in these two, you’ll certainly see your friends’ families. Toward the end of one later scene, where Sears has the stage to himself, the audience collectively holds their breath waiting to see what choice John will make.

An intriguing title can draw in an audience, so it’s unfortunate that this rather bland one could imply the show might be about birds, which is hardly the case. The birds primarily serve as the source of a safe topic — something they can both talk about without losing their control. Birds are the last thing these two need to be talking about in this touching story that deserves to be seen.

On a side note, Executive Artistic Director Jennifer Eve Thorn welcomed us at the top of the show and announced that Birds of North America would be her second-to-last production before stepping down after 74 productions under her watch since 2018. I’ve watched the quality of both program selections and final products flourish under Thorn’s watch, so it’s easy to have high hopes that the new Director will hold to Thorn’s high standards. Stage and Cinema wishes her well in her future pursuits.

photos courtesy of MOXIE Theatre

Birds of North America
Moxie Theatre
6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N – San Diego CA 92115
Thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on March 5, 2023
for tickets, call 858-598-7620 or visit Moxie Theatre

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