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Raven Theatre’s New Play Tackles The Topic Of Aging

Bird Feeder 8 - Landahl, Spencer cropped low resSome productions are hard to watch. They aren’t filled with warm jokes, they don’t toy with absurdism, and they have no intention of helping audience members escape reality.

Yet that’s exactly what “The Bird Feeder Doesn’t Know” was celebrated for during a question-and-answer session after its Sunday, April 12, showing at The Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St.

As one audience member said, “it’s a commentary on how we care for elderly parents and people. We no longer take them into our homes. We ship them off to nursing homes.”

Todd Bauer’s play tells the story of aging parents, Herman (played by Chuck Spencer) and Ingrid (played by Sheila Landahl), who are struggling to accept their declining physical abilities. Their son, Everett (played by Joshua J. Volkers), has a physical disability that makes it difficult for him to perform maintenance tasks at their home, two hours away from Everett’s own home in a big city.

Everett, meanwhile, must balance his own efforts to have a successful career and love life with the demands of caring for his parents, both of whom refuse, at different points and for various reasons, to enter an assisted living facility.

“The play has been, since it opened last week, sort of controversial,” director Jonathan Wilson said after Sunday’s performance. “These people are in their 70s, and they have views that a lot of people don’t hold.”

Much of the discussion after the play centered on the character of Ingrid, a strong personality who is fiercely protective of her son and husband yet who is also hemmed in by her own fear of change.

Bauer, a blind playwright whose work has also been performed in New York, Los Angeles and at the Kennedy Center, said the Sunday performance went well. He said he hopes a truth comes out of the performance.

Bill Fagan, a resident of Beverly, a south side Chicago suburb, was seeing the play for the first time on Sunday after hearing it read at Newberry Library. He’s a friend of the playwright.

“These people are all trapped by their circumstances in one way or another, whether it’s their disability or their personality,” and the play paints a picture of the dynamics that spin out from those limitations, Fagan said.

“The Bird Feeder Doesn’t Know” plays now until May 16 at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3:30 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit http://www.raventheatre.com/.


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