A TOP NOTCH PRODUCTION OF MARC ACITO’S “BIRDS OF A FEATHER”.

A Top Notch Production of Marc Acito’s “Birds of a Feather”.

“Birds of a Feather” is a true story based on the two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who adopted and raise a chick. . Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson wrote the controversial children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” which was about the two male penguins. This caused a backlash by the conservative right who wanted the book banded in school and libraries. It is also a true story about two “straight” hawks living and raising their own on a trendy Manhattan 5th Ave apartment building that became national news thanks to CNN Paula Zahn.

“Birds of a Feather” is an allusive, wisecracking comedy that would sound like a television sketch on “Saturday Night Live” but turns out to be a smart and sometimes touching contemplation on relationships of gay and straight raising of children. The script is clever, charming, humorous, and even poignant and Tom Bruett’s direction is flawless.

Its 1998 in the Central Park Zoo, two male Chinstrap penguins Silo (Luke Taylor) and Roy (David Levine) are observed attempting to hatch a rock as if it were an egg. Zookeeper (Elissa Beth Stebbins) secretly gives them an egg from a penguin pair named Porkey and Betty that could not hatch the egg. The two male penguins successfully hatch the egg and out comes a female penguin named Tango.  Also in this heart-warming tale a birder (Christopher Morrell) watches two heterosexual hawks nesting in the ornamental stonework high on a co-op in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. These two birds roost and raise seven children while a flurry of birdwatchers including Paula Zahn (Elissa Beth Stebbins) of CNN reports their progress. Four proficient actors play 27 characters in these interlocking stories.

Luke Taylor excellently plays the self-confident penguin Silo then flips his costume to become the very feminine hawk Lola.  He also plays Tango’s dad Porkey, the grown up Tango and several other small roles.

David Levine radiates muddled sweetness as the penguin Roy and morphs into a masculine swagger to play the rather arrogant media star hawk Pale Male. He remarkably plays the teen Tango, her mom Betty and would be book burning Chastity. Both have perfected the art of gender bending in a tour de force performance.

Elissa Beth Stebbins is engaging playing TV celebrity Paula Zahn especially in one hilarious scene when she visits Laudoun County to interview a library volunteer Chastity who says “And Tango Makes Three” is pornographic. It says the penguins sleep together” whereas snaps she back “So do Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat” expostulates. She also nicely portrays the Zookeeper.

Christopher Morrell is outstanding playing an assortment of roles including a Birder, a Man in Coveralls and Zahn’s husband Richard Cohen.(they live in the building where Pale Male and Lola nest).

Wes Crain versatile costumes are perfect especially the black and white street garb and black skull caps for the penguins.  Dean Shibuya set design is minimal while Lauren Soldano video projection displays New York vistas is an asset to this 90 minute fast pace production. Molly Steward-Cohn lighting and Sound Productions on sound is excellent.

“Birds of a Feather” plays through June 29th at the Walker Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco.  For tickets call 415-861-8972 or on line at www.nctsf.org  Coming up next is Charles Busch’s “The Divine Sister” opening on May 31st and later “Pansy” a new solo play by Evan Johnson on June 14th.