Rhubarb Theater Company presents Birds in Church, a series of 14 vignettes written by New Yorker/former Catholic priest Joe Pintauro, selected from the playwright's larger 27-vignette collection Metropolitan Operas.
Nearly 10 seasons ago, Rhubarb burst onto the local theater scene with Birds in Church, a production of 16 stories from the same Metropolitan Operas collection, curated and directed by Rhubarb founder Julie Alexander and John Devine.
That show and the experience of working with Alexander on such meaningful and challenging pieces of art, life, spirituality, and sexuality marked everyone involved, according to Rhubarb's current artistic director Trish Crist.
"The theater community still talks about that show," says Crist, who was a member of that cast. "That was the point where many of us realized not all theater is cute-and several of us have been drawn to grittier, uglier theater ever since. I know I have."
Now Crist will be directing 17 of Nashville's best-known actors in this mounting of Birds in Church and is quick to explain that this will not be a duplicate of Alexander's work.
"First of all, that wouldn't be fair to Julie if I tried to just 'redo' everything she did. Second of all, I probably wouldn't succeed-she's an exceptional artist and director and person, and I've no desire for my work to be compared to hers. And third of all, where's the fun in following a recipe for a show?"
Rather, Crist contends, the 2012 production is intended as a reminder to the community of what Rhubarb's artistic roots were and a statement that they are growing strong nearly 10 years later. It is also a "heartfelt thank you" from Crist to Alexander for the earlier "turning point experience."
This version, which takes its title from one of the vignettes involving two older priests, includes nine of the vignettes presented in Rhubarb's first show and five from the part of the collection that was not included before.
"So, are there birds?" Crist laughs. "Yes, birds of one sort or another are involved in pretty much ever vignette. They are not always literal birds, however. Many of the stories deal with the harmony (or disharmony) of spirituality and sexuality-feelings of obligation, lack of freedom, trapped as if like a bird in a cage. Remember, Pintauro is a former Catholic priest."
The cast includes Clay Hillwig, who also was in the original production, though in different roles, and Lisa Dunaway, Kelly Lapczynski, Phil Brady, Bob Fish, Kate Adams, Caroline Davis, Bralyn Stokes, Jim Manning, Trey Palmer and others.
This show deals with sexual and religious themes and is for mature audiences. Birds in Church runs November 9-17 at The Darkhorse Theater, 4610 Charlotte Avenue. Thursday, Friday, Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. All tickets are $12. For reservations and additional information, call (615) 397-7820 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.