The slow spread of ticket discounts for twenty-somethings and the barely concealed air of desperation regarding the median age of theater audiences all add up to what a polite Midwestern artistic director might call a “situation.” It is a situation “The Bird Feeder Doesn’t Know, ” the latest from Raven Theatre, seems eager to ignore. A barometer for the crisis of demographics currently plaguing the theater, “The Bird Feeder” aims for the sixty-plus sect and hits the nail squarely on the head.
While many good plays have come from exploring the fear at the heart of bigotry, “The Bird Feeder” spends far too much time taking easy pot shots. The play’s octogenarians deal out soft blows to artists, Hispanics, John F. Kennedy and plenty of others while fondly remembering those bygone “good old days” of global conflict, segregation and repression.
The play’s examination of aging too often feels like a “Honeymooners” reboot. Its hostility never feels entirely threatening and even this sturdy cast, which includes Raven regular Chuck Spencer, cannot locate a sense of drama that simply isn’t in the script. By the back half of the second act, the production seems to find its footing. Yet, it’s like turning up the heat to full blast after keeping things at a bare simmer. The end result is dry and flavorless.
In a season that highlighted Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” “The Bird Feeder” feels like a retread. Where the former projected the hypocrisy of rebuilding a country out of the lives and limbs of young men onto the timeless battle between idealism and pragmatism, “The Bird Feeder” aims for something more conservative. Connecting the dots between the disabled and the elderly as groups that society is quick to push to the margins is certainly a noble task. However, “The Bird Feeder Doesn’t Know” seems reticent to explore uncomfortable territory as if, like its matriarch, it too is trying to shield us from tragic realities. Hopefully it is a lesson learned. Regardless of age, audiences still come to the theater to be challenged not comforted. (Kevin Greene)
Raven Theatre, 6157 North Clark, raventheatre.com, (773)338-2177, $36. Through May 16.