Family is as family does. Diversionary Theatre presents Marc Acito’s “Birds Of A Feather,” a delightful “LGPT” comedy about family, through March 3. James Vásquez directs.
The P here stands for penguin, and Acito’s 2011 play is based on two real bird stories that captivated New Yorkers around the turn of this century.
In 1998 at the Central Park Zoo, two male Chinstrap penguins – Silo and Roy – were observed attempting to hatch a rock as if it were an egg. Zookeepers gave them an egg from a penguin pair named Porkey and Betty that could not hatch it. The chick, a girl, was named Tango.
Their story is immortalized in the children’s picture book “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Around the turn of the century, a red-tailed hawk was observed roosting on a building across from Central Park.
Worldwide interest peaked in early 2002, when that hawk (dubbed Pale Male) was first seen with a mate called Lola. They nested in the ornamental stonework high on a co-op on the Upper East Side, roosted and raised seven hatchlings between 2002 and 2004, attracting a flurry of birdwatchers, gawkers and reporters.
Four actors play 27 characters in these interlinked stories. Acito’s script is clever, charming, humorous, even touching, and Vásquez’s direction flawless.
Mike Sears plays the tall, self-confident penguin Silo – then flips his costume to become the very feminine hawk Lola, flapping her scarf coquettishly at Pale Male (Steve Gunderson).
“I can’t believe how frickin’ hot you are,” he says.
“I take care of myself,” she responds. “I fly several hours a day, eat a low-rat diet.”
Sears also plays Tango’s biodad Porkey, the grown-up Tango and several other small roles.
Likewise, in a trice Gunderson’s homebody Roy becomes the rather arrogant media star Pale Male, who expresses his regressive attitude about homosexuals to Silo: “I just think you’re a biological malfunction that threatens the natural order of the planet. Like greenhouse gases.”
Gunderson also plays the teen Tango, her biomom Betty and would-be book burner Chastity Wright, who expresses her objection to “And Tango Makes Three” to Paula Zahn (Rachael VanWormer): “It says the penguins sleep together.”
“So do Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat,” Zahn snaps.
But the birds aren’t the only creatures looking for mates. VanWormer is terrific as the single Zookeeper, unlucky in love since her prom date announced after the big night, “Now I know for certain I’m gay.” VanWormer also plays Paula Zahn, Mary Tyler Moore and a female birder.
Kevin Koppman-Gue is a hoot in an assortment of funny roles included a Birder, a Man in Coveralls and Zahn’s husband Richard Cohen (they lived in the building where Pale Male and Lola nested).
Kudos to scenic designer Sean Fanning for his all-inclusive set which makes it easy to imagine the penguin exhibit in the zoo as well as the skyscraper where Pale Male and Lola live.
Jeannie Galioto’s versatile costumes are perfect, as are Michelle Caron’s lighting and Kevin Anthenill’s sound design.
Everybody’s looking for love – birds, bees, educated fleas, even people. But most of them don’t do it this cleverly.
Don’t miss this 2012 winner of the the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play.
“Birds of a Feather” plays through March 3 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm; Monday, Feb. 18 at 8 pm.
Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.