‘Thing with Feathers’ premieres on Atlantic Stage

By Joan Leotta

For The Sun News

Bernadette Diana (left) as Birdie and Sydney Janelle Laribo as Hope in “A Thing With Feathers” by Kevin Ferguson, a production of Atlantic Stage in Myrtle Beach.
Bernadette Diana (left) as Birdie and Sydney Janelle Laribo as Hope in “A Thing With Feathers” by Kevin Ferguson, a production of Atlantic Stage in Myrtle Beach.

Kevin D. Ferguson, the resident playwright of Atlantic Stage has every right to preen his own feathers.

This original play deftly delves into the volatile relationships of a mother (Birdie), her daughter (Mary Elizabeth) and the daughter’s child, Hope. A fourth character, Hope’s prom date, Sam, offers opportunities for the focus to shift and give us alternate views of the high pressure situation the three women live in. Director Amanda Masterpaul has selected a cast that works so well in their individual characterizations and as an ensemble it is difficult to believe that two of them, Clifton Arnold as Sam and Sydney Janelle Laribo as Hope are only freshmen at CCU.

Princess Shropshire as Mary Elizabeth, a CCU sophomore and Bernadette Diana, a Murrells Inlet resident, both veterans of local and other stage productions round out the cast. Each of the four offers us explosions of emotion, loving familial laughter, tension between past actions and decisions and future hopes—all expressed at the perfect level not only for their own character, but also as members of a troubled but loving family.

The play opens with Birdie’s struggle to prevent her daughter Mary from ruining her granddaughter Hope’s prom and graduation. Pressures mount and secrets spill, and the end of the first act contains and emotional explosion that leaves us wondering if the three women’s relationships may become too large for Birdie to fix. Ferguson’s resolution of the plot is believable, uplifting and well, hopeful not only for the family but also for anyone who struggles with family tensions and looks for a solution. He says that behind the play is one of his favorite Emily Dickenson poems, Hope is the Thing with Feathers. “The idea of hope being at once so fragile yet so strong and of being selfless inspired me and the poem is definitely part of the play. I spent the first part of my career as a drama therapist with children, teens, and families the idea that families experience adversity and yet still stand by one another is one that I wanted to tell.”

If you are looking for a good, solid, and uplifting theatre experience, then this is the activity you want to choose for your next weekend experience.

As usual with Atlantic Stage, the set presents an amazing construction of several “rooms” in the small space that is their stage. The props, lighting, music and other sound effects are carefully chosen to subtly complement the action and meaning of the play. Even if you miss the “talkback”

Session , access to the playwright for questions is easy since Ferguson helps out at all productions working at the snack counter and helping with the fifty-fifty fundraiser.

Ferguson’s day job is working as a Teaching Associate in the Theatre Department at Coastal Carolina University. He is a member of the Dramatist’s Guild as well as the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America and is thoroughly committed to bringing professional theatre to our beach. He says, “I wear several hats at Atlantic Stage. As the Resident Dramaturg, I work with directors to help them realize their vision of the play they are directing. Sometimes that entails doing research on the given circumstances of the play, or providing designers with images, or actors with textual analysis…As playwright-in-residence, Artistic Director, Thom Penn has given me an artistic home.”

This is the third Ferguson play premiere at Atlantic Stage. The first, Child’s Play, is now being produced Off-Off Broadway by Rising Sun Productions at the Kraine Theatre. Last year’s, Spinning Jenny, will soon be on stage in St. Louis.

At A Glance

A Thing with Feathers runs from Jan 26-February 19, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $17.50-$27.50. Call 877-287-8587 or go online at www.AtlanticStage.com.Group rates are available. Call for more information. Atlantic Stage Theatre is located inside the Myrtle Beach Mall at the end near the Bass Pro Shops.