The Greensboro Fringe Festival is a theatre festival that takes place in downtown Greensboro. Annually, theatre, dance and comedy lovers gather in the Stephen D. Hyers Studio Theater to enjoy new and original shows written by local artists.
Jason Roland’s “The Sparrow” is one of the many shows featured in this year’s Fringe Festival. The last showing of the production took place on Jan. 30 in the Stephen D. Hyers Studio in downtown Greensboro. Directed by Brittany Brandes, “The Sparrow” captured all of the frustration, fear and confusion that arise as a result of a mystery medical condition. Ken, the main character, must deal with a condition that requires him to accept the unexplainable.
The fluctuating intensity of the production captivated audience members as they learned about secrets of the past and the dark implications of Ken’s (played by Andy Khan) diagnosis. “The Sparrow” presents viewers with a question about the burden of acceptance and emphasizes the power of perception.
For the play to have been on its third and final night, the house was fairly full. Chatter filled the room as we awaited “The Sparrow,” Red Queen Productions’ debut piece. At 6 p.m., Brittany Brandes, the artistic director appeared on stage to introduce the production.
In the first scene of the play, an ECG monitor beeped on the dimly lit stage which had been set to look like a hospital room. Ken’s wife, May (played by Margaret Stringer) vented to her unconscious husband about the terror she’d experienced the previous night when Ken’s symptoms first presented themselves. After a few minutes, Dr. Grant (played by Chauncey Miller) enters to ask May a string of questions that he hopes will lead to a better understanding of Ken’s condition. After a series of questions that May repeatedly expresses that she wouldn’t know the answer to due to Ken’s neglect to speak in detail about his childhood, and exasperatingly vague answers from Dr. Grant, May finds out that doctors have found and removed a parasite from Ken’s arm. This parasite isn’t a typical worm or virus, though. It’s a bird — a sparrow.
Everything about the set — the constant beeping of the ECG monitor, the sparse furniture and décor, the dim lights and intense tones of voice added to the suspense of the play. It was almost like watching a thriller.
Ken’s unusual diagnosis is extremely hard for May to accept, but the situation becomes even more uncomfortable and bizarre when Andi, Ken’s seemingly nonchalant mother (played by Patty Adkins), is introduced. May and Andi’s rocky relationship brings a great deal of tension to the stage. Their initial conversations are filled with petty jabs and threats despite the fact that a man they both love is in somewhat critical condition.
Later, though, we learn that much of Andi’s animosity toward May stems from jealousy and the guilt that she feels for making a decision that saved Ken’s life thirty years prior, but also caused her husband, and Andi’s father to abandon them.
Much of the dialogue takes place while Ken is unconscious — or so it seems. It is suggested during one of the scenes that though Ken is unconscious and heavily medicated, he can hear and understand everything that goes on around him.
His gradual shift from acceptance to disapproval is evident as Ken’s behavior and emotions change and intensify as the play progresses.
Nothing could have prepared the audience for the unexpected twist that came at the end of the play, but it posed a few important questions about acceptance and perception: what are problems per se, and are they still problems if we can identify positive or beneficial elements?
This is a decision that Ken was forced to make for himself; judging by the climactic ending of the play, our main character identifies more with the latter.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Uncategorized
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