The world premiere of Brighde Mullins' Rare Bird is an opportunity to see Anne Cullimore Decker in all her
Decker, the grande dame of the Salt Lake City stage, is at her theatrical best depicting powerful and glamorous women of a certain age -- as in her barn-burning performance a few seasons back as Maria Callas in Salt Lake Acting Company's Master Class. In the U of U Theatre Department's production of Rare Bird, Decker appears as Harriet Michalski, the oldest living former showgirl, whose quick wits and incisive mind are in good order, even if -- mysteriously--her investments are not. Harriet enlists the services of financial consultant Phoebe (Tracie Merrill) in hopes of tracking down her missing funds.
Meanwhile, ornithologist Professor Kroodsma (Tobin Atkinson), lectures plummily on the mating habits of various bird species --notably the blue-footed booby in one show-stopping sequence. Now, "booby" is a funny word no matter how you slice it, but Atkinson's comic timing is impeccable as the tweedy absent-minded professor.
The show consists of a fast-paced sequence of vignettes, and the ingenious production design allows for rapid scene changes: a high-tech light show, really, but well-suited for the play's Las Vegas setting. Special mention should be made of the tireless crew, who shift props around the stage with military precision. Sound design is equally appropriate, and the toe-tapping interstitial music keeps the action moving right along.
A "coda" in which Decker offers a monologue as Tracie's mother feels a bit superfluous and tacked-on -- as codas often do, we suppose -- but any additional chance to see Decker in action is a welcome one.
Rare Bird @ Babcock Theatre (lower level, Pioneer Memorial Theatre), U of U, 300 S. 1400 East, March 9-18, KingTix.com, 801-581-7100