Second Bird One Stone | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Second Bird One Stone 

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SECOND BIRD ONE STONE

TimeFrame Theatrical Productions

at Bailiwick Repertory

The program for Second Bird One Stone describes Audrey, its focal character, as a copywriter and "poetess." Audrey wears her hair in a fountain of frizz and speaks in a soft nasal twitter punctuated by glass-shattering shrieks of "Oh, my God! I don't believe it!" She answers the phone to talk business in the middle of making love, and has to be reminded to put her clothes back on before leaving the house. She claims that Paul, who writes novels (men write novels and women write poetry in this kind of play), is jealous because she is working and can write poems and songs. But we never see her write anything. For that matter, we never see Paul write anything, except one sentence in which he tells us that he's not writing anything. If this isn't enough to make writers everywhere form an antidefamation league, Audrey doesn't even read--or so says Paul, who apparently doesn't read either.

Ah, but Audrey does read Cosmopolitan magazine, which is where she allegedly gets the idea to test her relationship with Rej, her boyfriend since college days. She decides to have an affair with Paul, who still has a crush on her from those same school days. Her best friend, Petra, thinks this idea stinks, but offers all three of her old school chums advice and consolation. The progress of Audrey's experiment is charted in a series of 60-second scenes written to resemble television commercials (complete with product titles like "Dr. Condom" and "Sweetest-Addiction Cigarettes"). Interspersed are flashbacks to their college days, when these "entanglements" all began. There are also several tete-a-tetes in which the characters discuss their feelings about their "alliances." Since Paul and Petra are usually relegated to playing the foils in these interchanges, there is a running narrative that gives them the opportunity to tell us directly how they feel about matters. Eventually, the two men learn that Audrey has been using them in this stratagem to discover her true feelings about love and life and herself, and the three engage in some obligatory shouting and shoving before parting company forever. However, they return to the stage for an epilogue in which they tell us--you guessed it--how they feel about the whole thing years later.

Does this sound like the kind of intrigue that preoccupies the senior class a month or two before graduation? Does Audrey's dilemma translate into "If I break up with my steady boyfriend now, will I be able to get another date in time for the prom?" In spite of the fashionable locations, clothes, and psychobabble sprinkled throughout this script, Second Bird One Stone exists nowhere but in the limited universe of television soap opera, where the entire story relies on people who are old enough to drink and fornicate acting like adolescents. Following the time shifts between the past and the present is virtually impossible because the characters talk and act exactly the same in both. (They also sound more like North Shore-Parker-Latin-Loyola babies than the Wisconsinites their sweatshirts proclaim them to be. And anyway, why would kids raised in Wisconsin still find cow jokes funny?) The females huddle over tables in expensive restaurants and giggle, and the males wobble stiff legged in their urban-cowboy boots at trendy disco-theques and bat each other playfully on the arm. Petra, the social worker, tries to act as a parent figure ("Petra knows best," they all concur), but she's as childish as the others. "Fond!" she hoots. "Isn't that a queer word, 'fond'? I mean, can you imagine saying to someone, 'I'm fond of you'?" Well, what can you expect from someone who brags about cutting English lit class--along with Audrey and Paul, the writers of the future.

Daniel Lee wrote and directed Second Bird One Stone. As a playwright, he asks if a man and a woman can be friends without becoming lovers and whether it is possible for a woman to love two men at the same time--as if these questions were not facile and the answers not obvious. As a director, he keeps a tight rein on his actors, never permitting them any trace of humanizing depth or growth that might interfere with the shallowness of his characters. For those who still believe in the battle of the sexes, Second Bird One Stone is warmongering, tailor-made to be enjoyed by misogynist and man basher alike.

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