If We Were Birds – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If you were trapped in a tragedy, unable to escape, you might dream of being a bird, capable of flying free, finally released from your cage. Imagine you are a slave, a prize of war, stripped of your dignity, without a voice, subject to cruelty and a victim of rape. The Connecticut Repertory Theatre is cautioning you to take a leap into the past, back to the time of Ovid’s masterful “The Metamorphoses” and experience Erin Shields’ “If We Were Birds” at the intimate Studio Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut until Sunday, April 7.

King Pandion, a fun loving Matthew Antoci, has been blessed with two daughters. When his prized soldier Tereus (Aidan Marchetti) returns from war victorious, the King grants him his child Procne (Carly Polistina) as a gift in marriage. The wedding takes place immediately, leaving the two sisters, Procne and Philomela (Megan Casagrande) little time to say their tearful goodbyes before the newlyweds sail off to their new home.

A year later, after the birth of their son, Procne begs her husband to go and fetch Philomela for a visit. He reluctantly obeys but on the voyage home, he brutally attacks and rapes her. When his ship docks, he tells his wife her sister has fallen overboard and has drowned. A chorus of female slaves (Eilis Garcia, Pearl Matteson, Elizabeth Jebran, Wilow Giannotti-Garlinghouse, Adrianna Simmons) bear witness to this travesty and comment through out the drama on their demeaning fate.They, too, wish to escape their curse by becoming birds.

As destiny would have it, Procne eventually realizes her sister is still alive and the terrible prize her husband has stolen. The two sisters then plan revenge, one suited to the crime. With only a small leap of faith, one can connect this despicable deed to the current force of the #MeToo movement, where men still abuse their power and privileges and freely accost women as if they have an entitlement. Allison Zerio’s lighting illuminates Casey Lampert’s shark set in this moving and riveting story directed emotionally by Helene Kvale.

For tickets ($33, students $10), call the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at 860-486-2113 or online at crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Enter into the ancient world of Greek mythology for a tale of women ill used by men and the lengths those women will employ to enact a justifiable revenge.