- Emma Crane Jaster as Barbarina and Ashley Ivey as Renzo. (Photo: Scott Suchman)
The twins of The Green Bird do everything in tandem, including inciting the scorn of pretty much everyone they encounter – for Carlo Gozzi's commedia dell'arte is as much a fairy tale quest as it is a parable about the selfishness of "enlightened" young people. It's the 18th Century equivalent of Courtland Milloy's "myopic little twits" rant, with talking apples and glow-in-the dark statues.
Twins Renzo (Ashey Ivey) and Barbarina (Emma Crane Jaster) are the children of King Tartaglia (John-Michael MacDonald), but when his wicked mother accuses their mother, Ninetta (Katy Carcuff) of adultery the children are cast into the river, and rescued by a fat sausage-maker and his skinny wife (Matthew Wilson, Katie Atkinson). But the sausage-maker is cruel to them, and when they begin to question their parentage, they set off on a journey to learn the truth – all the while making total fools of themselves by alienating all of the people who care about themselves in their adherence to the tenants of ther philosophical beliefs. The twins believe in abstaining from selfishness, but are so misguided that they believe all unselfish acts are actually driven by self-love – and so, to avoid self-love, they become selfish, materialistic brats, while those older and wiser remain virtuous. They're guided along their path by a king who takes the form of a green bird (Rex Daugherty), a talking statue (Misty Demory), and a wise prime minister (Manolo Santalla).
The Green Bird is a pastiche of many of our favorite fairy tales – the nobility-turned-inanimate-objects of Beauty and the Beast, the strange quest of Alice in Wonderland (written a century later), the abused siblings of Hansel and Gretel, the rags-to-riches of Cinderella. Kendra Rai's costumes make the fantasy come to life, with traditional masks, playful touches that glow in the dark, and appendages that become opportunities for physical comedy, like the giant stomach of sausage-seller Truffaldino – an opportunity that Matthew Wilson, one of the city's top commedia actors, takes full advantage of. A.J. Guban's set and lighting are meant to evoke Cirque du Soleil sets, and a giant bird's nest contains musician Tom Teasley, who scores the show with spacey electronica and timpani rolls. And when the Green Bird alights from the nest and comes down to teach these myopic little twits a lesson, self-love is banished to the happily ever hereafter.