|"Fiddler" at freeFall|
Meanwhile, freeFall's "Fiddler on the Roof," the iconic musical based on a story by Sholem Aleichem, is a delight, with a revelatory performance by David Mann as Tevye.
"The Birds" starts off promising something special. Before curtain, the audience sits immersed in Jeffrey W. Dean's ominous set, the interior of house under attack by birds gone wild. Sound designer Todd Olson, who also directed, enhances the mood with distant birds sounds. It's a chilling pre-show. But then...
Just as show time approaches, the bird sounds silence, and the audience, almost literally captive, is subjected to three long curtain speeches -- two live, once recorded -- that total 15 boring, repetitive minutes of people mostly begging for donations.
The mood never recovers from those inexcusable infomercials. McPherson's play is alright, but not anywhere near as good as his best works ("Shining City" and "The Seafarer") and it couldn't dig itself out of the hole the curtain speeches dug for it.
It's the story of disparate people trapped in a house under attack, and doesn't seem to know what it wants to say. Fine performances by Roxanne Fay and Joseph Parra, that phenomenal set and great lighting by Joseph P. Oshry made the evening passable, but nothing more.
But freeFall's "Fiddler" is a treat. The staging by Eric Davis, the music direction by the great Michael Raabe and, especially, the performance by Mann make the overly familiar 50-year-old musical a treat.
Mann takes the role defined by Zero Mostel and Chaim Topol and re-invents it. Tevye's always been a lovable character, but he's usually portrayed as somewhat blubbering, even buffoonish. Mann makes him smart and lets the audience feel a profound level of sympathy for him.
The whole production is strong, and it's staged in the round so it the experience is more intimate than what we're accustomed to from musicals.
"The Birds" runs through Oct. 27 at American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. $39-$49. 727-893-7529, www.americanstage.org.
"Fiddler on the Roof" runs through Nov. 3 at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $29-$39. 727-498-5205, www.freefalltheatre.com.