Stage adaptation of ‘The Birds’ takes a deep look at human nature

The U.S. premiere of a stage adaptation of "The Birds" opens tonight at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.


The cast of "The Birds," from left, Angela Timberman, Stephen Yoakam, J.C. Cutler and Summer Hagen.

Images courtesy Guthrie Theater/Heidi Bohnenkamp

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The short story was written by Daphne du Maurier. Alfred Hitchcock trasnformed the story into the 1963 horror film by the same name.

Now playwright Conor McPherson has adapted the story for the stage. MPR's Euan Kerr reports in this production the birds are never seen: only heard, and occasionally felt.

Irish playwright Conor McPherson is a friendly, cheery fellow with bright red hair and a happy smile. But when it comes to discussing his adaptation of "The Birds" things quickly get biblical.

"This play, it sort of in a way tries to blend Genesis and the apocalypse all at once," McPherson said. "It's like OK, so we are conscious, but all we are conscious of is the end."

McPherson is a rising star of Irish theater. His version of "The Birds" is set entirely inside a small dilapidated house in a scattered rural community, not far from the sea. Bad things are happening as the play begins. Every time the tide rolls in, so do huge, angry flocks of birds bent on killing anything and everything. Society has collapsed around the world. A man and a woman, strangers until now, shelter inside the house. And the birds keep coming.

Ultimately McPherson uses the play to ask, when you strip away everything which supports our illusions of security and life, what are we? Are we animal, or are we divine?

You can read the rest of Euan Kerr's story here, or you can listen to it by clicking on the link below: