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2015-2016 SeasonChickens in the Yard

Stage review: Quantum gets quirky with ‘Chickens in the Yard’

By November 25, 2015August 15th, 2023No Comments
Actors in Chickens in the Yard

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – “Chickens in the Yard” unfolds as a quietly observed turning point in the lives of four interconnected people. And there are chickens present.

The play, by the Hatch Arts Collective and the first presentation of Quantum Theatre’s Gerry Kay New Voices Program is at once avante garde — characters morph into chickens and back again — and storytelling grounded in reality.

The chickens of the title are merely bystanders and not so much as laying an egg when a fourth chicken is placed among them, just as a fourth character is introduced to the proceedings. It is explained that it will take time for the new chicken to gain acceptance — a big hint in a play that more often makes its points organically.

The people of the play are pot-smoking Joyce (Laurie Klatscher), a witty widow and loving mother; her buttoned-down son John (Joseph McGranaghan), a hospital administrator; and John’s longtime lover Tom (Alec Silberblatt), a free-spirited artist. The trio lives amicably in Joyce’s suburban home, where there are chickens in the yard.

Into the mix arrives Tom’s estranged teenage sister, Abby (Siovhan Christensen, also the newest chicken, named for Anne Hutchinson), unannounced. She has come from her home in Latrobe, asking to stay with Tom while she checks out the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. We learn Tom was banished by their religious mother when Abby was 4, and this is their first reunion since he left home as a college freshman.

Abby realizes almost at once that Tom and John are in love, because, “you look at him the way Mom looks when she’s talking about Jesus.”

Although each character is of a type, the dialogue by Paul Kruse is unpretentious. It’s a nice change of pace that voices are rarely raised. Even the chickens are pretty serene, unless one bumps into the new chick in the yard. It quickly becomes clear to the audience, and to Joyce, that Abby is telling lies, but Tom doesn’t seem to notice. He has reason to be distracted — John may take a job in Cleveland, and Tom is ready to propose.

Events mount that add up to a story about responsibility, acceptance and how people form families. And, oh yes, there is the haunting presence of chickens.

With a quick slouch forward and hands held loosely behind their backs, the actors go into their chicken dances of staccato movements. Some transitions are more organic than others — for example, you know when someone is headed behind the break in a wooden wall that he or she will emerge transformed into a chicken or a person.

Ms. Klatscher as Joyce (her chicken name is Lucille 2) is a believably cool mom, making a comfortable home for her gay son and his lover. As John/Bruce Lee, Mr. McGranaghan frets about his career — like his late father, perhaps — while Mr. Silberblatt’s Tom/Eleanor Roosevelt tends to blithely look on the bright side and, with Joyce, provides the play’s lighthearted moments. The youthful Ms. Christensen, who has been popping up in productions all over town, fares well as a teen with something to hide.

Haunting music by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Morgan Erina helps create a time-warp effect for a few flashback scenes. The musicians have a spot above the stage in a building, reached through a Lawrenceville alley, that provides Quantum with a barn-like space, with wooden posts down the center (seats to the far left or right proved the best views) and lights hung from beams as if for a party. Set designer Britton Mauk also has created a light installation that could sub as a giant bird feeder.

Writer Kruse and director Adil Mansoor, who with producer Nichole Shero form Hatch, drew inspiration from their experiences and work with the LBGT community to create “Chickens in the Yard,” an enigmatic piece of theater that isn’t easily pigeonholed. In dramatic terms, the villain here is intolerance, unseen although deeply felt…

Read the full story here.

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