The Bluebird Mechanicals (Too Close to the Sun)
Theatre Republic, The Block
September 17 – 21
“The Bluebird Mechanicals” weaves together seemingly disparate elements – Kostya’s ghost in the aftermath of Chekhov’s “The Seagull”, the final fiery flight of the Hindenburg, and the omniscience of birds. The obscure collection of concepts is quite cleverly linked, although initially, at least, it is not clearly evident how. We start with “The Seagull” and while there is a quick recap of the classic Russian play, some audience knowledge of its characters is beneficial to the show’s accessibility. From that, there is an ornithological sidestep to explanation of unique bird sounds, some of the many animals that appear on stage, in a variety of puppet et al guises, including a spectacularly impressive bluebird costume.
Essentially the visionary solo show appears to be a series of vignettes with a linkage that emerges over time, delivered with conviction by Writer, Performer, Visual Concept, Set and Object Designer Talya Rubin. Despite its interdisciplinary nature, at 80 minutes’ duration though, “The Bluebird Mechanicals” is hard work, enjoyed more in reflection perhaps than in the reality of its languid experience. There are a lot of indulgent, contemplative pause silences through which the audience patients. There is, however, a lot to look at in the production’s detailed staging, which represents a nooks-and-crannies mix of natural history museum cabinetry and dioramas.
“The Bluebird Mechanicals” is a dense contemporary work delivered with a restraint that makes it an acquired taste type of show. Its delicate presentation of big ideas means that though a lot seems to happen, it feels like the opposite. Rather than an onslaught of ideas, the work offers opportunities for contemplation of its analogy of how the earth is like the Hindenburg destined for disaster while the sun hurtles towards us. (When we are not watching Chekov’s Nina being haunted and abandoned in a forest, we are being taken on a journey as passengers aboard the Hindenburg.)
A play suggesting that the human race is like soon to be extinct animals is not particularly joyful, but “The Bluebird Mechanicals” is, at times, quite beautiful, despite its suggestion of impending climate change disaster … to be appreciated perhaps more than enjoyed in its moments. Still, it is easy to understand its previous acclaim; this is a fascinating, unique experience of an alternative sort of storytelling, for those who like their theatre full of strange and surprise.