ALT going to 'The Birds' for suspenseful new take on classic tale

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Jo Smith, right, and Jeffrey Pickens star in "The Birds."
Photo by Chip Chandler

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

The name is familiar, but in this version of "The Birds," the danger comes in a human form.

Fans of classic cinema know Alfred Hitchcock's caw-filled version from 1963, but in this version by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, adapted from the same Daphne du Maurier short story, the avian menaces aren't the only thing to watch out for.

A few final survivors are holed up inside a remote cabin, tormented by the ever-present pecking and scratching of the deadly birds outside.

The drama will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Nov. 10; 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 11 and 12; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 13 in the Amarillo Little Theatre Adventure Space, 2751 Civic Circle. Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, and $13 for children ages 13 and younger for Thursday and Sunday performances and $21 for adults, $19 for students and seniors, and $15 for children for Friday and Saturday performances.

"The premise is basically the same — nature turning on humanity," said director Kim Shreffler. "And then humanity turns on itself.

"It ask the question, are people still civilized when civilization no longer exists?"

For star Jo Smith, the answer is an emphatic no.

"Like all of these characters, she's very broken," said Smith of her character, Diane, an author who's trapped in the cabin with Nat (Michael Newman), who may already have lost his mind.

"She is ultimately a survivor," Smith said. "And consdiering what's deep in her soul, you don't understand why she wants to survive, but she does. She doesn't have a choice."

The drama opens with Diane and Nat alone together, but their isolation is disturbed by the scheming, younger Julia (Reilly Downes)

"That's when you have the turning point," Shreffler said. "When it's two women and one man, there's a power struggle between the two women, and it's not at all subtle.

"In Diane's mind, she and Nat are the couple, and Julia is the child, but Julia sees Nat taking care of her and Diane can be the maid or something."

Soon, they're also joined by a rough-and-tumble farmer (Jeffrey Pickens) from across the lake who has an ominous warning about one of the three survivors.

But as Smith said, they're all broken, just in a matter of different degrees. Diane's baggage weighs heavily on the actress, though.

"She lives in a place I don't ever want to be, personally," Smith said. "To play her manipulation and power games, you have to dig deep and find those dark places in your own soul that a lot of people don't want to visit."


Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at on Facebook.

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