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Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ comes to Brooklyn

May 1, 2018 By Benjamin Preston Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A modern production of Aristophanes’ “The Birds” opens today at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Photo courtesy of NDP Photo Agency
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Political dissatisfaction is older than you think.

And Aristophanes’ “The Birds,” a 5th-century Greek comedy making its American premiere Wednesday at St. Ann’s Warehouse, incorporates Greek gods and pop culture’s bright colors and manic presence to examine themes of democracy, utopia and oppression.

“‘The Birds’ has a wild and subversive energy, which reminded me of the original production of ‘Hair,’ with its hippie manifesto and melange of colorful ragtag players and musicians as the birds and the gods, including a paralympian as Zeus,” Susan Feldman, the artistic director at St. Ann’s Warehouse, said. “Aggelos Triantafillou’s music and the awesome sound he and the cast create for the birds stuck in my memory long after I saw this production in Athens.”

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This modern take on the ancient play, reimagined for the modern stage by Greek director Nikos Karathanos, was adapted and translated into modern Greek by Karathanos and Giannis Asteris.

While “The Birds” does focus on pretty heavy themes, its plot is pure absurdity: Weary of the constant chicanery surrounding political life in Athens, two men leave the city-state to find an old king who has transformed into a bird.

They find him and talk him into convincing all the other birds to create a utopia in the sky — called Cloud Cuckoo Land — that subverts both men’s kingdoms and the celestial order of Olympian gods and goddesses. Once transformed into birds (although they aren’t very avian in appearance), the two Athenian defectors reject other men who seek to join them with the birds in their cloud kingdom.

The piece is the centerpiece of this year’s Onassis Cultural Center’s citywide festival celebrating birds as a theme in art, literature and science.

Although many of the festival’s events are in Manhattan, Brooklyn will see its fair share of programming, including a talk with Karathanos and cast members, a multimedia exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum that will examine free will and birdwatching tours in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

For the full festival schedule, visit


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