Ancient Greek ‘Birds’ Earn New York Times Acclaim

Credit: @Kiki Papadopoulou_

The adaptation of the original Aristophanes play Birds presented by Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse and Onassis Cultural Centre has won the acclaim of the New York Times.

The paper’s art critic Ben Brantley writes that the adaptation by Nikos Karathanos is “dynamic” and “Dionysiac in a way New Yorkers have seldom seen since the heyday of the boundary-busting Living Theater in the 1960s”.

Karathanos’ production contemporizes the ancient play, in which humans seek out the avian creatures to build a new society in the sky, driven by a desire for inclusion and liberation from stagnant mores.

“Choreographed by Amalia Bennett, with music by Angelos Triantafyllou, ‘The Birds’ often comes across as one sprawling, angry orgy, in which making love and waging war are hard to tell apart,” Brantley says.

“It isn’t pretty, exactly, but it’s harsh and hypnotic, primal and ethereal at the same time. It is the music of earthly existence, with all its mysterious, tantalizing promises, just waiting to be fulfilled — and thwarted,” he adds.

The Birds was first produced as part of the Dionysia festival in 414 BC, at the heart of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, the nearly-three-decade bloodbath that left Athens depleted.

Athens had been a nexus of lofty ideals: the world’s first known democratic society, teeming with intellectual and artistic excellence.

But Aristophanes’ The Birds, much like Karathanos’ adaptation, was borne of turmoil and transition — a utopian escapist fantasy replete with raucous humor, dance and music.